The Naked Truth

Stopping the world’s spin.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe

An Aussie doctor: Medicine in my country is so advanced that we can take a kidney out of one man, put it in another, and have him looking for work in six weeks.

A British doctor: That is nothing, we can take a lung out of one person, put it in another, and have him looking for work in four weeks.

A Canadian doctor: In my country, medicine is so advanced that we can take half a heart out of one person, put it in another, and have them both looking for work in two weeks.

A  Zimbabwean doctor: You guys are way behind, we just took a man with no brain – made him President, and now the whole country is looking for work. 
 

April 7, 2008 Posted by | Africa | , , , | Leave a comment

How the Beijing Olympics got their logo

There’s mounting talk about boycotting the Beijing olympics. One the one hand, it is the world’s stage and any message sent would be very clear. But do we really want to hold our athletes hostage? They’ve trained for most of their lives and too take away the opportunity of going to the Olympics would be a real shame. And for what, so China can win more gold metals than they should? Boycotting just the opening ceremonies, I guess, can be another option.

Where do you stand? Please comment.

March 25, 2008 Posted by | beijing | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Corporate Crooks

U.S. Corporate Hall of Shame 

As Conrad Black, ex-Hollinger International chief executive officer, reported to jail this month, let’s revisit the list of the most prominent convicted corporate felons.

Bernard Ebbers, WorldCom Communications

CEO's that lie, cheat and steal

John Rigas, Adelphia Communications

Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz, Tyco International

Kenneth Lay, Jeffrey Skilling and Andrew Fastow, Enron (Lay’s conviction was voided in 2006 because he died at age 64 before he could complete his appeals.)

Joseph Nacchio, Quest Communications

Richard Scrushy, HealthSouth

Martin Grass and Franklin Brown, Rite Aid

Sam Waksal, Imclone

Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (conviction did not involve MSLO, see Imclone case.)

CEO's that lie, cheat and steal

I guess these white-collar criminals must have skipped their business ethics class. These bandits slowly and methodically planned the crimes that wrecked the future of untold numbers of people and inflicted far more damage on society than all street crime combined.

Thank God, justice was served. How many more will there be?

March 23, 2008 Posted by | crime | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Global Warming Timeline

Global warming is widely accepted as a reality by scientists and even by previously doubtful government and industrial leaders. And according to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is a 90% likelihood that humans are contributing to the change. Studies have overwhelmingly shown that climate change scenarios in which greenhouse gases emitted from human activities cause global warming best explain the observed changes in Earth’s climate. Climate change models that use only natural variation can’t account for the significant warming that has occurred in the last few decades.

The international panel of scientists predicts the global average temperature could increase by 2 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 and that sea levels could rise by up to 2 feet. Scientists have even speculated that a slight increase in Earth’s rotation rate could result, along with other changes. Glaciers, already receding, will disappear. Epic floods will hit some areas while intense drought will strike others. Humans will face widespread water shortages. Famine and disease will increase. Earth’s landscape will transform radically, with a quarter of plants and animals at risk of extinction.

While putting specific dates on these traumatic potential events is challenging, this timeline paints the big picture and details Earth’s future based on several recent studies and the longer scientific version of the IPCC report.

2008

Global oil production peaks sometime between 2008 and 2018, according to a model by one Swedish physicist. Others say this turning point, known as “Hubbert’s Peak,” won’t occur until after 2020.  Once Hubbert’s Peak is reached, global oil production will begin an irreversible decline, possibly triggering a global recession, food shortages and conflict between nations over dwindling oil supplies. (doctoral dissertation of Frederik Robelius, University of Uppsala, Sweden; report by Robert Hirsch of the Science Applications International Corporation)

2020

Flash floods will very likely increase across all parts of Europe. (IPCC)

Less rainfall could reduce agriculture yields by up to 50 percent in some parts of the world. (IPCC)

World population will reach 7.6 billion people. (U.S. Census Bureau)

2030

Diarrhea-related diseases will likely increase by up to 5 percent in low-income parts of the world. (IPCC)

Up to 18 percent of the world’s coral reefs will likely be lost as a result of climate change and other environmental stresses. In Asian coastal waters, the coral loss could reach 30 percent. (IPCC)

World population will reach 8.3 billion people. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Warming temperatures will cause temperate glaciers on equatorial mountains in Africa to disappear. (Richard Taylor, University College London, Geophysical Research Letters)

In developing countries, the urban population will more than double to about 4 billion people, packing more people onto a given city’s land area. The urban populations of developed countries may also increase by as much as 20 percent. (World Bank: The Dynamics of Global Urban Expansion)

2040

The Arctic Sea could be ice-free in the summer, and winter ice depth may shrink drastically. Other scientists say the region will still have summer ice up to 2060 and 2105. (Marika Holland, NCAR, Geophysical Research Letters)

2050

Small alpine glaciers will very likely disappear completely, and large glaciers will shrink by 30 to 70 percent. Austrian scientist Roland Psenner of the University of Innsbruck says this is a conservative estimate, and the small alpine glaciers could be gone as soon as 2037. (IPCC)

In Australia, there will likely be an additional 3,200 to 5,200 heat-related deaths per year. The hardest hit will be people over the age of 65. An extra 500 to 1,000 people will die of heat-related deaths in New York City per year. In the United Kingdom, the opposite will occur, and cold-related deaths will outpace heat-related ones. (IPCC)

World population reaches 9.4 billion people. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Crop yields could increase by up to 20 percent in East and Southeast Asia, while decreasing by up to 30 percent in Central and South Asia. Similar shifts in crop yields could occur on other continents. (IPCC)

As biodiversity hotspots are more threatened, a quarter of the world’s plant and vertebrate animal species could face extinction. (Jay Malcolm, University of Toronto, Conservation Biology)

2070

As glaciers disappear and areas affected by drought increase, electricity production for the world’s existing hydropower stations will decrease. Hardest hit will be Europe, where hydropower potential is expected to decline on average by 6 percent; around the Mediterranean, the decrease could be up to 50 percent. (IPCC)

Warmer, drier conditions will lead to more frequent and longer droughts, as well as longer fire-seasons, increased fire risks, and more frequent heat waves, especially in Mediterranean regions. (IPCC)

2080

While some parts of the world dry out, others will be inundated. Scientists predict up to 20 percent of the world’s populations live in river basins likely to be affected by increased flood hazards. Up to 100 million people could experience coastal flooding each year. Most at risk are densely populated and low-lying areas that are less able to adapt to rising sea levels and areas which already face other challenges such as tropical storms. (IPCC)

Coastal population could balloon to 5 billion people, up from 1.2 billion in 1990. (IPCC)

Between 1.1 and 3.2 billion people will experience water shortages and up to 600 million will go hungry. (IPCC)

Sea levels could rise around New York City by more than three feet, potentially flooding the Rockaways, Coney Island, much of southern Brooklyn and Queens, portions of Long Island City, Astoria, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, lower Manhattan and eastern Staten Island from Great Kills Harbor north to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. (NASA GISS)

2085

The risk of dengue fever from climate change is estimated to increase to 3.5 billion people. (IPCC)

2100

A combination of global warming and other factors will push many ecosystems to the limit, forcing them to exceed their natural ability to adapt to climate change. (IPCC)

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will be much higher than anytime during the past 650,000 years. (IPCC)

Ocean pH levels will very likely decrease by as much as 0.5 pH units, the lowest it’s been in the last 20 million years. The ability of marine organisms such as corals, crabs and oysters to form shells or exoskeletons could be impaired. (IPCC)

Thawing permafrost and other factors will make Earth’s land a net source of carbon emissions, meaning it will emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than it absorbs. (IPCC)

Roughly 20 to 30 percent of species assessed as of 2007 could be extinct by 2100 if global mean temperatures exceed 2 to 3 degrees of pre-industrial levels. (IPCC)

New climate zones appear on up to 39 percent of the world’s land surface, radically transforming the planet. (Jack Williams, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

A quarter of all species of plants and land animals—more than a million total—could be driven to extinction. The IPCC reports warn that current “conservation practices are generally ill-prepared for climate change and effective adaptation responses are likely to be costly to implement.” (IPCC)

Increased droughts could significantly reduce moisture levels in the American Southwest, northern Mexico and possibly parts of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, effectively recreating the “Dust Bowl” environments of the 1930s in the United States. (Richard Seager, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Science)

2200

An Earth day will be 0.12 milliseconds shorter, as rising temperatures cause oceans to expand away from the equator and toward the poles, one model predicts. One reason water will be shifted toward the poles is most of the expansion will take place in the North Atlantic Ocean, near the North Pole. The poles are closer to the Earth’s axis of rotation, so having more mass there should speed up the planet’s rotation. (Felix Landerer, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Geophysical Research Letters)

Opposing Views

The skeptics continue to raise the question of whether these observations and effects attributed to global warming may in fact be explained by natural variation or changes in solar radiation hitting the earth. There are still others that go further and assert that global warming is nothing more than Chicken Little Science, and a big LIE. The Earth is a living, breathing, dynamic planet, they say, and these are just Mother Earth’s normal cycles of change. They wonder how can scientists possibly base the statistics of climate change on about 150 – 200 years of recorded data, and claim the scientists who are jumping on the global warming bandwagon are doing so because if they don’t support this big LIE, they won’t get funding to do their research. Skeptics lament that it is a sad truth to know that scientific research can be bought and paid for by the rich and elite to help them increase their wealth.

Read both sides of the argument here.

March 20, 2008 Posted by | global warming | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cost of Global Warming Regulation

Biofuels forcing world to ration food aid

The World Food Program is preparing to ration food aid for the world’s hungriest poor. Why? Primarily because we’re burning food in our automobiles. The rich-country mandates for biofuels have doubled and tripled world food prices in less than three years.

The World Food Program’s costs are rising by millions of dollars per week and the donations aren’t, warns WFP executive director Josette Sheeran. The WFP is trying to feed more than 70 million people in 78 countries with voluntary contributions—but now can’t afford to keep its agreed-upon commitments.

World corn prices are above $5 a bushel, up from $1.86 three years ago. Prices for wheat, soybeans, rice and even cotton are rising as they’re crowded out of field space by biofuel crops. Pakistan says it will reimpose food rationing for the first time since the 1980s. China’s food inflation rate is 18.2 percent, and the Chinese have blocked further expansion of their fledgling biofuel program.

Food for Car

Oxfam points out that the poor in the Third World must often spend 60-80 percent of their incomes for food, so the price increases are a drastic threat to their well-being.

In Yemen, the prices of mostly-imported bread and other staples have nearly doubled in recent months, with at least a dozen people killed in food riots.

The underweight proportion of the world’s children under five had dropped by 20 percent since 1990—but that vital progress may now be reversed by the biofuel subsidies. Meanwhile, while U.S. and European officials stubbornly insist that burning millions of tons of corn, sugar and palm oil in our gas tanks has nothing to do with the soaring prices of farm commodities.

“The fundamental cause is high income growth, ” claims Joachim von Braun, the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute. He blames increased meat consumption in such high-growth nations as China and India. But both those big countries have largely supplied their own grain and meat increases over the past 15 years.

The commodity-savvy Financial Times is more realistic. “Biofuels will not feed the hungry,” it warned in a recent editorial. “. . . the biggest structural change [in food pricing] is biofuels. In the space of a few years, the U.S. has diverted about 40 million tonnes of maize to produce bioethanol—about 4 percent of global production of coarse grains. That rapid growth is largely the result of subsidies—which must halt. The environmental benefits of maize biofuel are ambiguous at best and it should not be favored over growing maize for food.”

The same should be said, of course, about the EU’s new commitment to provide 10 percent of its transport fuel from land-hungry biofuels, grown both in the EU countries and imported from such species-rich environments as Indonesia and Thailand. One of the great apes, the orangutan, is directly threatened by palm oil plantations because the apes love to eat the palm seedlings. Thousands of orangutans have been captured and killed because the palm oil plantations are an “attractive biofuel nuisance.”

U.S. corn farmers raised a record amount of grain last summer—but one-third of it is going into ethanol plants to “cure our addiction to foreign oil.” That corn will produce perhaps 10 billion gallons of ethanol—but nets out to just 50 gallons worth of gasoline per acre. That’s after subtracting the nitrogen fertilizer, the diesel fuel, the process heat for the ethanol plants—and ethanol’s 35 percent fewer Btu’s of energy per gallon.

Match 50 gallons worth of gasoline per acre against America’s annual demand for 135 billion gallons of gasoline! If we doubled corn yields, we’d still not achieve much “energy independence.” Nor would we feed the hungry.

source: Dennis T. Avery, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. and Director of Center for Global Food Issues (www.cgfi.org), and Alex A. Avery, Director of Research at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Food Issues. (via Enterstageright.com)

Update 

Upon further digging, I found a Swiss study which concluded that biofuels may not be the panacea for the world’s fossil-fuel woes. Such fuels may actually be more harmful for the environment than their fossil counterparts.

The research team tested the following alternative fuels: bioethanol, biomethanol, biodiesel and biomethane. It then considered the entire production cycle.

According to the authors, while it was true that biofuels might emit less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels when consumed, producing them was generally more stressful on the environment.

The report confirmed that biofuels emit up to a third less carbon dioxide than petrol and diesel. However, this in itself was not enough to give them the eco-friendly stamp of approval.

“The energetic efficiency and the resulting reduced emissions of greenhouse gases cannot be the sole criteria for assessing the environmental friendliness of biofuels,” said Rainer Zah, one of the authors. “The prefix ‘bio’ doesn’t necessarily mean environment friendly,” Zah added.

Growing and processing crops for energy purposes or feedstocks can have the heaviest environmental impact, as soil quality can be affected adversely, such as through fertiliser overuse.

In tropical countries slash and burning – used to clear land for crop production – resulted in copious amounts of carbon dioxide being released into the air. The production of bioethanol from rye was the least environmentally friendly owing to low yields. The environmental impacts of fuel processing and transportation were much lower, the report noted.

But unlike fossil fuels, the environmental impact of biofuels can be greatly reduced by specific measures and new production methods should lead to much better ecological results. Among the different biofuels, biogenic wastes, ranging from grass to wood, presented the most environmentally friendly option for replacing fossil fuels.

The study, Sustainable Energy: A Framework for Decision Makers concluded that the environmental and social damage could… outweigh the benefits of biofuels.

March 19, 2008 Posted by | global warming | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran indoctrinating children in Islamic supremacism

A new study of Iranian textbooks finds that the Islamic Republic is teaching its children to embrace Islamic supremacism, preparing them to enter a political system that discriminates against women and non-Muslims.

The study, “Discrimination and Intolerance in Iran’s Textbooks,” is the most comprehensive to date of Iran’s textbooks, analyzing 95 compulsory textbooks for grades one to 11. The main author of the study, Saeed Paivandi, is a sociologist at Paris-8 University and one of the few Western scholars to specialize in Iran’s post-revolutionary education system.

“The discourse of the textbooks has not been written with the concept of equality of all human beings, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the study concludes. “In the textbooks’ reasoning, human beings cannot be equal with one another on this earth, in the same way that, on the day of reckoning, they will be subject to divine judgment for their identity and actions. The trend, based on the clear and official negation of the equality of human beings, created different positions for the various people in society. Some individuals are born first-class citizens, due to their identity, gender, and way of thinking, while others become second- and third-class citizens. Those who are excluded from the inside are victims of this discriminatory system.”

That system inside Iran has led to a raft of laws that prohibit non-Muslims from holding high government and military posts, enforce a quota of non-Muslims allowed to matriculate at universities, and require non-Muslim shopkeepers to designate their stores as such. But the lessons of Islamic supremacism also applies to Iran’s foreign policy, which the American government says is to support terrorist groups throughout the Middle East. For example, the Islamic culture religious studies textbook for eighth-grade instructs, “Defensive jihad is incumbent upon every one, the young and the old, men and women, everyone, absolutely everyone, must take part in this sacred battle, fight to the best of his or her abilities or assist our fighters.”

A seventh-grade textbook on the same subject says: “By taking note of the guidance and instructions provided by Islam, every Muslim youth must strike fear in the hearts of the enemies of God and their people through combat-readiness and skillful target shooting. He must always be ready to defend his country, honor, and faith and use all his capabilities and power in this endeavor. After the victory of the revolution, His Holiness Imam Khomeini, the deceased leader of the Islamic revolution, issued an order for the establishment of the basij (paramilitary group) for the oppressed.”

The report places the present school curriculum in Iran in the context of the country’s ancient tradition of religious Muslim schools but finds major differences between the two. Iran’s modern school curriculum, for example, teaches secular topics such as science and political history, while the Khomeinist doctrine of the state runs through these subjects, as well. On lessons on world history, the textbooks emphasize a unity with fellow Islamic republics.

The textbooks also enforce a strict view that women should be at home raising children. A 10th-grade textbook for religion and life says, “A mother whose husband earns sufficient income cannot say, ‘My job demands that I leave my child at the day care center every day,’ and, in this way deprive her child from her constant love and attention.”

While the textbooks recognize other religious groups in Iran, including Jews, they refer to followers of the Bahai faith as members of a cult.

The Freedom House study is not the first review of Iranian textbooks. Last year a Jerusalem-based think tank, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, did its own review, which concluded that Iran was preparing children to become radical martyrs. The Freedom House study takes a broader approach to the textbooks, but it also finds that martyrdom is encouraged in grades one through 11.

“In the Farsi textbooks of Grades 1 through 11, 31 lessons discuss martyrdom and death for the sake of religious or political beliefs. These lessons are mostly biographies or autobiographies of important religious figures of the past, including soldiers and officers of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution and the basij (paramilitary group),” the Freedom House study says.

source: The New York Sun

March 19, 2008 Posted by | religion | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraq War: Winners and Losers

In 2008, there are still more American troops in Iraq than during the invasion, with no exit yet in sight. Britain’s Ministry of Defence has just admitted that it has been unable to withdraw as many British troops as it planned – there are 4,000 still based just outside Basra, instead of the projected 2,500. So far 3,987 American soldiers and 197 British troops have died in Iraq.

Soldier and Statue of Saddam

The Winners

Dick Cheney

The only Washington hawk still in a position of power after the occupation went so disastrously wrong. Part of a lame-duck administration, but can look forward to a comfortable retirement: his former company, Halliburton, has done nicely out of the whole Iraq business.

Iran

Could the ayatollahs ever have imagined that the Great Satan would overthrow its great enemy, Saddam, put its Shia co-religionists in power in Iraq and make its soldiers hostage to Tehran’s good will? They have George Bush where they want him, and Israel is nervous.

Sir John Scarlett

Author of the notorious WMD dossier along with Alastair Campbell, he was criticised for allowing MI6 to be used for political ends. But a grateful Tony Blair granted his ambition of heading the service, and the traditional knighthood followed.

Al-Qaeda

Saddam had no truck with Osama bin Laden’s men, but that did not stop the White House convincing the US public they were in cahoots. It was the invasion that gave al-Qa’ida a foothold in Iraq and eased the pressure on it in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Kurds

The only Iraqis still wholeheartedly behind the occupation, and why not? America ousted the man who attacked them with poison gas, and guarantees the safety of the closest thing the Kurds have ever had to an independent nation.

Tim Spicer

Got into hot water with his previous military company, Sandline, in Sierra Leone and New Guinea. Bounced back spectacularly with Aegis Defence Services, which won a huge contract in Iraq, to the dismay of his American competitors.

The Losers

George Bush

Thanks to his invasion of Iraq, historians are seriously debating whether he is the worst President in US history. Even if Cheney and Rumsfeld were more to blame, he will bear ultimate responsibility for the damage to America’s standing in the world.

The neocons

Never have arrogance and incompetence combined to such disastrous effect. The ideologues might have been “mugged by reality” and humiliated, but Iraq will suffer the consequences for decades to come.

Tony Blair

Might still be Prime Minister if Iraq had not stained his record. But given the millions he’s now making, some might think that he belongs in the Winners column.

The Palestinians

Preoccupied by Iraq, the US has had little time or inclination to press Israel to talk peace, apart from the half-hearted initiative launched in Mr Bush’s last year in office.

The US media

How did a press that prides itself on its rigour and accuracy get carried along by war hysteria? ‘The New York Times’ and WMD propaganda, anyone?

Afghanistan

The world supported the US when it overthrew the Taliban and ousted its al-Qa’ida “guests”. But America switched its attention to Iraq. The result: al-Qa’ida and the Taliban have regained strength.

British security

The July 7, 2005 bombers used Britain’s role in Iraq as their excuse, and the authorities have their hands full trying to prevent disaffected young Muslims seeking to emulate them.

source: independent.co.uk

March 18, 2008 Posted by | iraq | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraq War: Were Americans lied into conflict?

By Joseph C. Wilson 4th
Published: July 6, 2003 by the New York Times

Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?

Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

For 23 years, from 1976 to 1998, I was a career foreign service officer and ambassador. In 1990, as chargé d’affaires in Baghdad, I was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein. (I was also a forceful advocate for his removal from Kuwait.) After Iraq, I was President George H. W. Bush’s ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe; under President Bill Clinton, I helped direct Africa policy for the National Security Council.

It was my experience in Africa that led me to play a small role in the effort to verify information about Africa’s suspected link to Iraq’s nonconventional weapons programs. Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That’s me.

In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake — a form of lightly processed ore — by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990’s. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president’s office.

After consulting with the State Department’s African Affairs Bureau (and through it with Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, the United States ambassador to Niger), I agreed to make the trip. The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret. While the C.I.A. paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono), I made it abundantly clear to everyone I met that I was acting on behalf of the United States government.

In late February 2002, I arrived in Niger’s capital, Niamey, where I had been a diplomat in the mid-70’s and visited as a National Security Council official in the late 90’s. The city was much as I remembered it. Seasonal winds had clogged the air with dust and sand. Through the haze, I could see camel caravans crossing the Niger River (over the John F. Kennedy bridge), the setting sun behind them. Most people had wrapped scarves around their faces to protect against the grit, leaving only their eyes visible.

The next morning, I met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick at the embassy. For reasons that are understandable, the embassy staff has always kept a close eye on Niger’s uranium business. I was not surprised, then, when the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq — and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington. Nevertheless, she and I agreed that my time would be best spent interviewing people who had been in government when the deal supposedly took place, which was before her arrival.

I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country’s uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place. (emphasis mine)

Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger’s uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, because the two mines are closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities, selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there’s simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired.

(As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors — they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government — and were probably forged. And then there’s the fact that Niger formally denied the charges.)

Before I left Niger, I briefed the ambassador on my findings, which were consistent with her own. I also shared my conclusions with members of her staff. In early March, I arrived in Washington and promptly provided a detailed briefing to the C.I.A. I later shared my conclusions with the State Department African Affairs Bureau. There was nothing secret or earth-shattering in my report, just as there was nothing secret about my trip.

Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission. The documents should include the ambassador’s report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a C.I.A. report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.

I thought the Niger matter was settled and went back to my life. (I did take part in the Iraq debate, arguing that a strict containment regime backed by the threat of force was preferable to an invasion.) In September 2002, however, Niger re-emerged. The British government published a “white paper” asserting that Saddam Hussein and his unconventional arms posed an immediate danger. As evidence, the report cited Iraq’s attempts to purchase uranium from an African country.

Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.

The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them. He replied that perhaps the president was speaking about one of the other three African countries that produce uranium: Gabon, South Africa or Namibia. At the time, I accepted the explanation. I didn’t know that in December, a month before the president’s address, the State Department had published a fact sheet that mentioned the Niger case.

Those are the facts surrounding my efforts. The vice president’s office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer. I did so, and I have every confidence that the answer I provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government.

The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses. (It’s worth remembering that in his March “Meet the Press” appearance, Mr. Cheney said that Saddam Hussein was “trying once again to produce nuclear weapons.”) At a minimum, Congress, which authorized the use of military force at the president’s behest, should want to know if the assertions about Iraq were warranted.

I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program — all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.

But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America’s foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor “revisionist history,” as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.

Joseph C. Wilson 4th, United States ambassador to Gabon from 1992 to 1995, is an international business consultant.

March 18, 2008 Posted by | iraq, war | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Real Reason the U.S. is in Iraq

By Harley Sorensen
Published: September 13, 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle

We should get out of Iraq immediately. Let me explain …

But, first, bear in mind why we’re in Iraq. It has nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, and it has nothing to do with the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

It has a lot to do with ambition.

Before we invaded Iraq, our politicians told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in great quantities. Secretary of State Colin Powell even went to the United Nations and described Iraq’s cache in detail, down to the pound of certain weapons.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told us that not only did Iraq have these weapons but he knew exactly where they were.

This is why I seriously doubted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. What our government told us defied logic and common sense.

The United Nations had inspectors in Iraq looking for weapons. They couldn’t find any. Logic and common sense, then, would have dictated that our government tell those inspectors where to look. After all, if we knew, why wouldn’t we share our knowledge with the inspectors?

We wouldn’t, of course, because we didn’t know. Our government explained its unwillingness to help by explaining that it didn’t want to compromise confidential sources.

How much sense does that make? Saddam has enough weaponry to attack the western world, and we can’t lead the UN inspectors to it because we don’t want Saddam to know how we got the information? Give me a break!

(As a footnote, it should be noted that a favorite trick of pathological liars is to “protect” their nonexistent sources of information.)

Iraq cartoon

We now know for certain that Saddam did not have the weapons we used to go to war against Iraq.

And common sense tells that we didn’t attack Iraq because Saddam is a brutal dictator. He was a brutal dictator back in the days when we played footsie with him as he fought Iran. (Do a Google image search for Rumsfeld and Saddam, and you’ll find pictures of Rummy and Saddam shaking hands.)

Historically, the United States has always been friendly with brutal dictators if it’s to our financial advantage. Currently, there are other dictators afoot; Saddam wasn’t the only one.

And anyone who can read knows that Saddam had nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

So why did we go to war with Iraq?

The short answer is “oil.” But that’s not the whole story.

Briefly, we went to war with Iraq because an influential group of conservatives (now known as “neo-cons”) convinced President George W. Bush that it was in America’s best interests to conquer Iraq as a first step toward dominating the oil-producing nations in the Middle East and eventually the world.

Not insignificantly, these same neo-cons wanted to eliminate Iraq as a threat to their darling ally, Israel.

Their plan is laid out in detail on the Web at newamericancentury.org.

So we invaded Iraq not to save ourselves from weapons of mass destruction, not to rid the world of a brutal dictator and not to avenge the murders of Sept. 11. We invaded Iraq because Bush and his pals think America should rule the world.

That’s why we can’t win. The rest of the world isn’t going to let us win. The rest of the world might admire us, but they do not want to be dominated by us.

And that’s why we should get out of Iraq today. Not tomorrow, not next week, not a year from now, but today.

Try as we may, we are not going to turn Iraq into a model democracy. The Sunnis don’t want democracy. The Shiites don’t want a democracy. The Kurds don’t want a democracy.

The Saudis do not want a new democracy as a neighbor. Nor do the Kuwaitis. Nor do the Syrians. None of the countries in that region with despotic rulers want us to succeed. And don’t think for a moment they’re above slipping terrorists into Iraq to kill Americans.

The plan to conquer Iraq was half-baked from the start. Our troops were not properly trained or equipped to do the job given them. (Sent to the desert in jungle fatigues? Not given body armor? Completely untrained in handling prisoners?)

There was no “exit plan” because we never intended to exit. The plan was, and is, to build military bases in Iraq and stay there forever as cock of the walk in the Middle East.

Many of our European friends, who have a sense of history, knew better than to get involved in such a fool’s mission.

Bush may be the idealist other people think he is, but his grandiose plan for controlling the world has at least one fatal flaw: it depends, childlike, on the good will of all involved.

Yet, not even the U.S., the alleged “good guy” in this mess, has demonstrated purity. Our leaders see Iraq as a place to make money. So Bush & Co. have set up their friends to cash in on the rebuilding of Iraq, a job that should be done (for pay) by the people who built it in the first place: Iraqis.

We can’t win in Iraq. Hardly anybody wants us to. The longer we stay there, the more Iraqi children end up maimed or dead, the more of our young men and women die.

Clearly, our government lied to us, and to the world, to get us into this war. That alone should tell us it’s wrong.

Several years ago, George W. Bush made a decision to quit drinking. As one of my e-mailers suggests, we would have been better off if he had decided, instead, to quit lying.

It’s not too late, George. (edit, It’s too late, George.)

March 18, 2008 Posted by | iraq, war | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making a Killing

Companies that operate internationally may say that peace is conducive to prosperity, that people don’t go shopping in a war zone. But, according to journalist Thomas Friedman, “McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15.’s” While Iraq waits for fighter jets to make way for fast food chains, private armies police a fortified ‘green zone’ where corporations meet to seal the lucrative deals made possible because of the war. Transport, health, education and other services central to building a solid sustainable democracy are up for grabs to the highest bidder, predominantly businesses from countries who took part in the war.

NYSE

Most of the contract awarded to international companies operating within Iraq have been given on a ‘cost-plus’ basis, in its simplest form this means profits are calculated as a percentage of expenses. The more money a contractor spends on the contract, the more profit they make, leaving the contracts open to massive abuse.

The company that has profited most from the invasion of Iraq is U.S. vice president Dick Cheney’s former firm, Halliburton, now with contracts worth over $10 billion. The company is currently the subject of multiple criminal investigations into overcharging and kickbacks, much of which is related to their abuse of cost-plus contracts. Overcharging by the company has run from ordering specially embroidered towels to charging extortionate prices for petrol.

The demand for security services to protect foreign corporations operating in Iraq, and the growing trend for outsourcing of military services to private contractors, has provided a bonanza for private military companies, this has seen UK private security companies annual revenue increasefrom £200 million before the war to over £1.8 billion now. Unlike military personnel, civilian contractors are not subject to military justice. Yet one of the most controversial measures introduced by the occupying forces in Iraq was Order 17, which granted all foreign contractors immunity from Iraqi law. This is now been challenged by the Iraqi parliament following the Blackwater scandal .

Blackwater

A US government review of operations in Iraq concluded that approximately 35% of the interrogation personnel provided by private contractors were not properly trained, and that a lack of sufficient oversight resulted in contractors believing that the techniques used in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal were acceptable. While the US soldiers involved in the Abu Ghraib abuse were quickly court marshalled, civilian contractors implicated in the abuse have not yet been subject to any government prosecution.

Iraq is only the beginning of a worldwide corporate carve-up. Whether it’s diamonds in Sierra Leone, oil in Angola, copper in Papua New Guinea, gold, coltan and diamonds in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or timber in Liberia, natural resources from conflict zones are being fed into international supply chains dominated by multinational corporations. The money the corporations spend is in turn fuelling the conflicts.

Multinationals operate in conflict zones alongside enormous poverty and suffering and do very nicely from it. Issues of human rights are largely ignored.

In Colombia, BP p.l.c. operates the country’s largest oil reserves in the war-torn region of Casanare. Media reports in the 1990s highlighted BP’s involvement with Colombian military units accused of human rights violations. More recently, human rights groups from around the world have interviewed hundreds of Colombians that had been involved in protests against BP and found many too scared to leave their homes.

In Palestine, Israel’s military forces use specially armoured bulldozers made by Caterpillar to demolish Palestinian homes and to build the Separation Wall declared illegal by the International Court of Justice. Jim Owens, Caterpillar’s CEO, reckons that his firm are “doing well by ‘doing good’ all around the world”. UN Special Rapporteur Jean Zeigler has called Caterpillar to account over the role played by their machines in the violation of Palestinians’ rights.

source: Jason Brown, cerebralblackhole.com

Update

British firms have also been operating in Iraq. After courting controversy in the Nineties, Tim Spicer – whose previous company, Sandline International, was accused of breaking a United Nations embargo by selling arms to Sierra Leone – has re-emerged as a powerful player with his latest venture, Aegis Defence Services. Aegis won a $293m Pentagon contract in 2004, which has since been extended, and employs more than 1,000 contractors in the country. Another British company, Global Strategies, which calls itself a “political and security risk-management company”, employs cheaper Fijian contractors for its Iraq operations. And another firm, ArmorGroup, chaired by the former British foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, was getting half its revenues from Iraq. It carried out convoy protection at rates estimated at between $8,000 and $12,000 a day, and helped to guard polling stations during the country’s elections.

The connections between Halliburton and the Bush administration helped to generate $16 billion in contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the three years from the start of 2004 – nine times as much as any other company. Halliburton decided last year to spin off the division operating in Iraq. That business, KBR, has generated half its revenues there each year since the invasion, providing private security to the military and infrastructure projects and advising on the rebuilding of the country’s oil industry.

(via indepentent.co.uk)

March 17, 2008 Posted by | Profits | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment