Archive for May, 2008

Invitation to Steal: War Profiteering in Iraq

May 31, 2008

William D. Hartung | Foreign Policy In Focus, May 28, 2008

[Note: This essay was drawn from FPIF’s latest book, Lessons from Iraq: Avoiding the Next War, published by Paradigm Publishers.]

The heavy reliance on private contractors to do everything from serving meals and doing laundry to protecting oil pipelines and interrogating prisoners has been a major factor in the immense costs of the Iraq war. By one measure, there may be more employees of private firms and their subcontractors on the ground in Iraq than there are U.S. military personnel.

One of the main rationales for using private companies to carry out functions formerly done by uniformed military personnel – a practice that has been on the rise since then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney commissioned a study that led to the contracting out of all Army logistics work to Halliburton in the 1990s – was that it would save money. But in Iraq, the combination of greedy contractors and lax government oversight has resulted in exorbitant costs, many of them for projects that were never completed.

The first sign that something was terribly wrong with the contracting process for the war was the awarding of a no-bid, cost-plus contract to Halliburton, allegedly to pay the cost of putting out oil fires in Iraq. Rep. Henry Waxman started asking questions about the contract after he learned that it could be worth up to $7 billion over x years. He rightly questioned how a no-bid deal justified on the basis of potential short-term emergencies could have such a long duration at such a high price. Only then was it revealed that the contract also covered the task of operating Iraq’s oil infrastructure. Given the long-term nature of this larger task, Waxman argued that this aspect of the work be taken away from Halliburton and subjected to competitive bidding. It was several years before his recommendation was implemented, and even then Halliburton received what at least one potential competitor – Bechtel –viewed as an unfair advantage.

While few contracts matched the size of Halliburton’s oil deal, the use of cost-plus awards was widely emulated. A cost-plus award is virtually an invitation to pad costs, as profits are a percentage of funds spent – in other words, the more you spend, the more you make. This problem has been compounded by a lack of auditors to scrutinize these contacts. For example, in one zone of Iraq, only eight people were assigned to oversee contracts worth over $2.5 billion.

Continued . . .

Bush backs Musharraf as Pakistani leader’s support wanes

May 31, 2008

By Saeed Shah | McClatchy Newspapers, May 30, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — President Bush reached out Friday to support longtime ally Pervez Musharraf, calling the embattled Pakistani president to assure him of continued U.S. backing.

Musharraf’s demise is now considered almost a foregone conclusion in Pakistan, but Bush’s intervention appeared to be a powerful signal that Washington wouldn’t welcome Musharraf’s exit.

“The president reiterated the United States’ strong support for Pakistan, and he indicated he looked forward to President Musharraf’s continuing role in further strengthening U.S.-Pakistani relations,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in Washington.

Pakistan is abuzz with speculation that Musharraf’s attempts to cling to power have collapsed as his enemies step up their attacks and even his supposed allies have gone silent. The rumors reached fever pitch in the last few days with stories of a rift between the president and army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, forcing Musharraf to deny any differences with the military.

“This (Bush call) is a shoring up, an effort to demonstrate continued support,” said Dan Markey, a former State Department official who’s now at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, a nonpartisan research center. “I have heard no serious rumblings of a change from the Bush administration on Musharraf. My impression is that they feel that there is not a lot to gain from losing this ally now, as they would get no credit for it.”

Pakistan’s fragile coalition government, which came to power after elections in February, has taken an increasingly hard line against Musharraf, who rose to power in a 1999 military coup.

Under Pakistan’s original constitution, power is supposed to rest with the prime minister and his government, with the president merely a ceremonial head of state. Musharraf has balked at the government’s attempts to cut the powers he’s awarded himself, especially the ability to dismiss parliament and appoint the army chief.

Continued . . .

Can Truth Retain Its Independence?

May 31, 2008

By Paul Craig Roberts

30/05/08 “ICH’ — – Justin Raimondo has a good column this morning on Antiwar.com. It is written as a fundraiser. But what it shows is that journalists (and whistle-blowers) who tell the truth in America are more likely to be pummeled than rewarded, whereas those who lie for powerful interest groups live high on the hog.

It wasn’t just Bush, Cheney, and the neoconservatives who deceived us into an illegal war in behalf of a hidden agenda. It was the American media. Raimondo names some of the culprits who are complicit in the deaths of some one million Iraqis, an unknown number of Afghans, and thousands of American soldiers.

It was all for a lie. A lie told by the President of the United States and his handmaidens in the media.

Two of the worst handmaidens, Billy Kristol and Thomas Friedman, have been rewarded for their treachery to America by the New York Times, which pays these men, who have never been right about anything, to pontificate from columns on its pages. Others, such as Peter Beinart, are installed at the Washington Post and other publications.

Continued . . .

Cowardice of silence

May 31, 2008

The renewal of Aung San Suu Kyi’s arrest casts shame on the Burmese junta’s western sponsors

hen I phoned Aung San Suu Kyi’s home in Rangoon yesterday, I imagined the path to her door that looks down on Inya Lake. Through ragged palms, a trip-wire is visible, a reminder that this is the prison of a woman whose party was elected by a landslide in 1990, a democratic act extinguished by men in ludicrous uniforms. Her phone rang and rang; I doubt if it is connected now. Once, in response to my “How are you?” she laughed about her piano’s need of tuning. She also spoke about lying awake, breathless, listening to the thumping of her heart.

Now her silence is complete. This week, the Burmese junta renewed her house arrest, beginning the 13th year. As far as I know, a doctor has not been allowed to visit her since January, and her house was badly damaged in the cyclone. And yet the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, could not bring himself to utter her name on his recent, grovelling tour of Burma. It is as if her fate and that of her courageous supporters, who on Tuesday beckoned torture and worse merely by unfurling the banners of her National League for Democracy, have become an
embarrassment for those who claim to represent the “international community”. Why?

Continued . . .

The Grand Deception Of Selling War

May 30, 2008

Selling War — “What WE Say Goes.”

Gunnar Garbo


Introduction at the Conference on the Implications of Language for Peace and Development, (IMPLAN), University of Oslo, May2, 2008.

When Hitler’s troops invaded Norway in 1940, their bomber planes also spread leaflets declaring that the troops considerately came to protect the Norwegian people and secure our freedom and independence. In warfare lies like these are common. Recently two non-profit journalism organizations in the US documented that during the first two years after 11 September President Bush and his top officials issued at least 935 false statements about reasons for attacking Iraq. Bush led with 259 lies. [1]

But the tradition of leaders’ lying is older. Already Plato proclaimed the right of leaders to tell lies in order to deceive both enemies and their own citizens for the benefit of the state. A person who enthusiastically picked up Plato’s advice was the Chicago professor of philosophy Leo Strauss, who taught his doctrines to a number of the top people who joined the staff of the Bush administration. Abram Shulsky, who produced a considerable part of the misinformation about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, once said that he had learned from Strauss that cheating is the norm in politics. [2]

However, in his farsighted book 1984 George Orwell pointed out that it is not enough for authoritarian leaders just to tell specific lies. He found that their ultimate aim is to create a new reality in the minds of people, different from the real world. Orwell gave us illustrative examples like: WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. If the leaders can make most people internalize double-speak of this kind and believe that the new way of speaking depicts reality, they have actually changed the world in which we live. [3]

In connection with the first Gulf war President Bush, Sr., demonstrated that he had learned “the manufacture of consent”. Stating that the US had got a new credibility, the president proclaimed: What WE say goes.” The administration of his son is following in senior’s footsteps. A year after 9/11 Ron Suskind, a columnist who had investigated the White House for a number of years, happened to mention the intellectual principles of empiricism and enlightenment in a conversation with a presidential adviser. “That’s not the way in which the world really works anymore”, was the answer he got. “We are an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality. And while you are studying that reality, we’ll act again creating other new realities, which you can study too. WE are history’s actors, and all of you will be left to just study what we do.” [4]

This is the arrogance of power. It is the way empires talk. Dictatorial authority displaces arguments. The trick is to reduce the general public to a proper spectator role. As Noam Chomsky points out, the general population should be marginalized, each person isolated, deprived of the kinds of association that might lead to independent thought and political action. By constructing a grand edifice of lies terrorizing the domestic audience by images of menacing threats from “failed states” like Iran and North Korea they manufacture consent to military interventions – instead of trying to solve conflicts by peaceful means, which they are committed to by the UN Charter. [5]

Sometimes factual developments come in handily for the deceivers. Karl Rove, who for several years was President Bush’s closest adviser, recently said to an audience that “History sometimes sends you things, and 9/11 came our way.” In an article about Euphemism and American Violence Professor David Bromwich has pointed out how President Bush viewed the September 11 attack as an opportunity. The leadership should do far more than respond to the attack, he felt. Better to use it as an opportunity to “go massive”, as Donald Rumsfeld put it: “Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” [6]

That is what they did. Instead of treating the 9/11 attack as an international crime, which it was, they responded by launching what they called a global war on terrorism. This phrase was a carefully chosen example of double-talk. It might indicate something as harmless as “a war on aids” or “a war on poverty”. But it could also mean an aggressive use of military weapons. The US Congress willingly gave the president the authority he wanted to use military force wherever in the world he found persons that he determined had contributed to the 9/11 attack and who might repeat similar performances in the future. As we have seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, his war on terror became what John Pilger calls a war of terror. And it primarily hits masses of ordinary people who had nothing to do with 9/11. [7]

Terrorism is not an armed enemy. It is a concept naming a special way of fighting, the harassing of people in order to bend their leaders to the will of the harassers. Western governments tend to define it as a cruel tool solely used by rebels. But in fact militant states are terrorizing people much more devastatingly than insurgent movements.

But missiles and bombs can’t kill a concept. Extinguishing terrorism depends upon a change in the attitudes of common people and politicians all over the world. Not the kind of brainwashing which is facilitated by double-talk, but change promoted by ethical attention, rational reflection, open debate and popular mobilization. Terrorism may be overcome when all states at long last learn to respect human rights and international law. Especially it presupposes measures to remove those underlying causes of violence which the UN General Assembly twenty years ago rightly described as “misery, frustration, grievance and despair, and which cause people to sacrifice human lives, including their own, in an effort to effect radical changes.”. [8]

Of course the Western war leaders paid no attention to the UN resolution, if they had seen it at all. Neither did they care about the motives which Osama bin Laden gave for 9/11, quoting decades of Western support to oppression in Palestine, sanctions against Iraq and US bases in Saudi Arabia as reasons for the attack. This was obviously old-fashioned language, which did not conform to the new realities which Bush and Blair were creating with their rhetoric.

They used the 9/11 attack as an opportunity to launch a war against states in which they anyhow wanted to produce “regime change” as they call it. This notion must by all means be distinguished from forced interference through military aggression. According to President Bush the plane hijackers carried out their acts because they hated the freedom of the United States. To avoid further attacks on free societies it was not sufficient to fight terrorists. It was also necessary to limit the domestic freedoms which Bush and Blair were fighting for by restrictions on private integrity, on free travel, on legal protection and on the right to information.

It may be difficult for people to understand the need to suppress freedom in order to promote it. You will first grasp its logic when you internalize double-speak.

After the hijackers on 11th September 2001 killed three thousand persons, including themselves, history was seen by the war leaders to begin anew. Neither the Bush administration nor the main media paid much attention to the fact that nearly one hundred thousand people were killed through the more trivial practice of murder in the United States during the first six years after the attack. [9] Neither were they much shocked by the fact that international acts of terrorism increased sevenfold after Bush started his war on terrorism. [10]

Rushing to the defence of USA in Central Asia Norwegian governments have exposed even Norway to the possible risk of terrorist retaliation. But the supreme commander of the Norwegian defence forces, General Diesen, has tried to calm down public opposition to war by his own contribution to the double-speak vocabulary. He states that offense is defence. Civilian assistance to rebuilding Afghanistan is according to him offensive. Military operations against Afghan resistance are on the other hand defensive. The general’s problem is to convince Afghans about the reasonableness of turning front to back. Ignorant local people may believe that words still mean what they used to do.

To demonize the enemies as evil people the way Bush did with his Axis of Evil speech is of course a valuable contribution to the new way of thinking, which also happens to be old one. Groups who oppose the US in Afghanistan or Iraq are regularly called Taliban or al-Qaida, who are seen as outlaws and free game. We are told that in Iraq a huge part of them are foreign intruders, though 98 to 99 per cent of the prisoners which the occupiers have interned are Iraqi citizens. The al-Sadr militia is vilified as “criminals” or “criminal gangs”. More than one half of the US occupying forces are mercenaries, hired by the occupier. They are referred to as contractors or security missions.

There is a striking similarity between the language used by the aggressors. When the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 they portrayed the invasion as a humanitarian intervention. They did not come to conqueror anyone. Their aim was to prevent the establishment of a terrorist regime and to protect the people against genocide. Eleven years later the US and the UK also invaded Afghanistan, this time to protect themselves against terrorism, which also happened to be in the best interest of the Afghan people. They wanted namely to promote democracy and human rights in the Middle East. “We are not conquerors”, declared Bush, “we are liberators.”

Both invasions were proclaimed to be in conformity with international law, though none of them were. Governments on both sides called on their peoples to “back our troops”, who were fighting for a noble cause. In both cases the invaders paid much less attention to the huge number of Afghan victims than to their own losses. And in both cases the invaders warned that premature withdrawal of their troops would lead to catastrophic conditions for the local people. At long last the Soviet forces did all the same retire, and the Afghan people seem to have suffered somewhat less under the rule of Taliban. The USA and NATO are on their part escalating the war in order to avoid “losing face” or, to put it in proper language, not to expose the war-stricken population to the loss of peace and freedom.

Just as destroying vegetation in Vietnam was called pacification and invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq were presented as defence against terrorism or atomic weapons, US acts of torture in Abu Ghraib or elsewhere are termed interrogation in depth. One of the means of questioning which president Bush has reserved the right to allow is named waterboarding. This means starting to drown a suspect, but humanely interrupting the drowning before the victim dies.

We find the same preference for euphemism in a number of other cases. When Norway participated in NATO’s war over Kosovo our prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik described it as a peace operation. To make the attack seem in conformity with international law the Government produced false testimonies to Parliament.

We are dealing not only with double-language, but also with double moral standards. While Iran and North Korea are being threatened not to acquire weapons of mass destruction, Israel, which has long ago produced atomic bombs and quietly threaten its neighbours with them, is never blamed. And while Iraq was forced by war to withdraw from Kuwait no pressure is being put on Israel to return to the Palestinians the land of theirs which Israel has occupied and annexed as its own.

Mainstream media have gone along with all this misuse of power, practically without opposing it. A few fine journalists, like Robert Fisk and John Pilger, have stood out as rare exceptions, focusing on the impact of the military violence on the victims in the form of dead or crippled corpses, suffering relatives and homeless refugees, collateral damage as this is called by the double-speakers. Even the main media have attended to impacts on the ground, but with an enormous difference between the attention shown towards the casualties of one’s own armies than towards far greater losses of human life inflicted upon the populations of the countries which are exposed to our pacification.

How shall we disclose and counter the double-language of the war-mongers? That is a job for all of us, not least for educators. People need to learn more about the ways in which the meaning of words may be twisted. Words may be used to express thoughts, to hide thoughts or to hide lack of thoughts. They may also be used to lie, to misinform and to fabricate a false consciousness. People should be less impressed by authorities. In most cases political leaders don’t understand more than common people, though they pretend to be in the know. We need the ability to listen critically, to distinguish between proven facts and dubious assertions and to make use of alternative means of information and communication.

Above all this is a challenge for journalists. To-day they tend to defend themselves as professional, when they are in fact giving priority to writing and programming which produce that audience and further those profits which owners and advertising corporations are insisting on. Media professionalism ought to be something very different, namely to provide information which shows readers and listeners the realities behind political and commercial rhetorics and to tell people what they need to know in order to check their masters and influence the forming of our societies. A leading Norwegian journalist, Ragnar Wold, many years ago said that when Hitler stated that he wanted peace with all his neighbours, newspapers should not simply quote the dictator, but announce that now Hitler had produced one more of his lies.

That is still a good advice.


[2] Gunnar Garbo: Verken ny eller liberal. Kolofon forlag, Oslo, 2008, side 66.

[3] George Orwell: 1984.. A Signet Classic published by New American Library 1977. Page 16

[4]Christian Salmon: Scheherazade in the White House. Le Monde Diplomatique, April 2008

[5] Noam Chomsky: “What we say goes”; The Middle East and the New World Order. Z Magazine, May 1991.

[6] David Bromwich: Euphemism and American Violence. Ney York Review of Books, April 3 2008

[7] Joint Resolution S.J. RES. 23, 107th Congress. To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.

[8] Measures to prevent international terrorism. General Assembly A/RES/¤”/159, 7 December 1987

[9] Bob Herbert: America’s Other Kind of Terror. N.Y. Times August 18, 2007.

[10] Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank: The Iraq Effect: War Has Increased Terrorism Sevenfold Worldwide. A Mother Jones’ Study at the Center on Law and Security at the N.Y. University.


Gunnar Garbo (b. 1924) has been a prominent public figure in Norway. His career covers a wide range of activities, in journalism, politics and diplomatic service. In 1960s- and 70s he was one of the most noticeable political activists in Norway. As a Member of Parliament for Venstre (Liberal Party) 1958-1973, and the chairman of Venstre 1964-1970, he, later on, held different position in the United Nations and also served as Norway’s ambassador to Tanzania 1987-1992. He has written a number of books on political and international issues.

Israel destroyed 200 West Bank buildings

Khaleej Times, May 30, 2008
(AFP)

JERUSALEM – Israel demolished 208 buildings in the occupied West Bank last year, a UN agency said on Friday, adding that the Defence Ministry corrected its previous figure of 107.

Most of the houses were torn down under demolition orders issued because there were no construction permits, which Israeli authorities only seldom grant to Palestinians.

The buildings are located in the so-called Area C, which makes up more than 60 percent of the West Bank and is under full Israeli control.

‘We have been informed that according to the records of the Israeli Ministry of Defence the number of structures demolished in Area C of the West Bank in 2007 is not 107, as reported earlier, but 208,’ the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

In the first quarter of this year, Israeli authorities demolished 124 structures in the West Bank, the UN agency said.

US Soldiers Launch Campaign to Convert Iraqis

By Jason Leopold
The Public Record

Some U.S. military personnel appears to have launched an initiative to covert thousands of Iraqi citizens to Christianity by distributing Bibles and other fundamentalist Christian literature translated into Arabic to Iraqi Muslims.

A recent article published on the website of Mission Network News reported that Bible Pathway Ministries, a fundamentalist Christian organization, has provided thousands of a special military edition of its Daily Devotional Bible study book to members of the 101st Airborne Division of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, currently stationed in Iraq, the project “came into being when a chaplain in Iraq (who has since finished his tour) requested some books from Bible Pathway Ministries (BPM).”

“The resulting product is a 6″x9″ 496-page illustrated book with embossed cover containing 366 daily devotional commentaries, maps, charts, and additional helpful information,” the Mission Network News report says.

Chief Warrant Officer Rene Llanos of the 101st Airborne told Mission Network News, “the soldiers who are patrolling and walking the streets are taking along this copy, and they’re using it to minister to the local residents.”

“Our division is also getting ready to head toward Afghanistan, so there will be copies heading out with the soldiers,” Llanos said. “We need to pray for protection for our soldiers as they patrol and pray that God would continue to open doors. The soldiers are being placed in strategic places with a purpose. They’re continuing to spread the Word.”

Continued . . .

Israel destroyed 200 West Bank buildings

May 30, 2008

Khaleej Times, May 30, 2008

(AFP)

JERUSALEM – Israel demolished 208 buildings in the occupied West Bank last year, a UN agency said on Friday, adding that the Defence Ministry corrected its previous figure of 107.

Most of the houses were torn down under demolition orders issued because there were no construction permits, which Israeli authorities only seldom grant to Palestinians.

The buildings are located in the so-called Area C, which makes up more than 60 percent of the West Bank and is under full Israeli control.

‘We have been informed that according to the records of the Israeli Ministry of Defence the number of structures demolished in Area C of the West Bank in 2007 is not 107, as reported earlier, but 208,’ the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

In the first quarter of this year, Israeli authorities demolished 124 structures in the West Bank, the UN agency said.

US Soldiers Launch Campaign to Convert Iraqis

May 30, 2008

By Jason Leopold
The Public Record

Some U.S. military personnel appears to have launched an initiative to covert thousands of Iraqi citizens to Christianity by distributing Bibles and other fundamentalist Christian literature translated into Arabic to Iraqi Muslims.

A recent article published on the website of Mission Network News reported that Bible Pathway Ministries, a fundamentalist Christian organization, has provided thousands of a special military edition of its Daily Devotional Bible study book to members of the 101st Airborne Division of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, currently stationed in Iraq, the project “came into being when a chaplain in Iraq (who has since finished his tour) requested some books from Bible Pathway Ministries (BPM).”

“The resulting product is a 6″x9″ 496-page illustrated book with embossed cover containing 366 daily devotional commentaries, maps, charts, and additional helpful information,” the Mission Network News report says.

Chief Warrant Officer Rene Llanos of the 101st Airborne told Mission Network News, “the soldiers who are patrolling and walking the streets are taking along this copy, and they’re using it to minister to the local residents.”

“Our division is also getting ready to head toward Afghanistan, so there will be copies heading out with the soldiers,” Llanos said. “We need to pray for protection for our soldiers as they patrol and pray that God would continue to open doors. The soldiers are being placed in strategic places with a purpose. They’re continuing to spread the Word.”

Continued . . .

Cluster bomb ban to be adopted

May 30, 2008

Israel dropped thousands of cluster munitions during a 2006 war in Lebanon [GALLO/GETTY]

Al Jazeera, May 30, 2008

Countries from around the world are set to ban the use of current designs of cluster bombs in a treaty human rights workers have described as a “monumental achievement”.

Delegations from 111 countries are preparing to formally accept the deal at a ceremony in Dublin, the Irish capital, on Friday after almost two weeks of negotiations.

Factfile


Cluster bombs

The convention, agreed on Wednesday, requires signatories to eliminate stockpiles of cluster munitions within eight years.

Marc Garlasco, a military analyst with Human Rights Watch, said the treaty was a “monumental achievement”.

Garlasco told Al Jazeera that although the US and other nations have not committed to signing the agreement, he expects the treaty will stigmatise cluster munitions and so deter those nations from using them.

“We will now see a future in which not only will these weapons not be used, but [the treaty] also provides for victim assistance as well as clearance of weapons that have been used in the past,” he said.

Ban opposed

The US, along with Israel, Pakistan, China and Russia, who are among the main producers and stockpilers of the weapons, have opposed the ban.

A third of recorded cluster munitions
casualties are children [EPA]

Cluster munitions release small “bomblets” in mid-air which spread over a large area, but many of the bombs do not detonate and remain dangerous, injuring and killing civilians after periods of conflict have ended.

A central problem in negotiations was how the armed forces of those nations signing any treaty would work alongside nations who have not signed up.

It was decided that the treaty will allow signatories and non-signatories to work together in military deployment.

Additionally, it allows the use of future cluster bombs which pick targets more precisely and contain self-destruct technology.

Norway spearheaded talks in February 2007 to end the use of the bomb.

The convention is due to be signed in Oslo on December 2-3. States will then have to ratify the pact.

Falling out with the President: the devious world of George Bush

May 30, 2008

As presidential spokesman until 2006, Scott McClellan had the task of defending some of the administration’s most unpopular decisions. But his new book reveals what he really thought of his master

By Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, May 29, 2008

Getty Images
For the 43rd President, a decision once taken is always right. The approach reflects not only Mr Bush’s ingrained stubbornness but his ability to deceive not only others, but also himself.

Change font size: A | A | A

He was the most plodding, the most robotic, and – until this week – apparently the most loyal of presidential spokesmen. But now Scott McClellan, White House press secretary for George Bush between 2003 and 2006, has delivered the most wounding critique yet of this unhappy administration by one of its erstwhile senior officials.

What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception is no falsely touted insider memoir, jazzed up with a few titillating anecdotes to boost sales. It is a 341-page disquisition on Mr Bush, on his misbegotten war in Iraq, and on his entire conduct of the presidency, which Mr McClellan says was built on the use of propaganda, and on the technique of government as permanent campaign.

“History appears poised to confirm,” he writes in arguably the most damning paragraph of a book full of them, “that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder. No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now … What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary.”

Continued . . .

Caste protesters seeking to be downgraded blockade Delhi

May 30, 2008

Thousands of protesters from India’s Gujjar tribe brought Delhi to a standstill yesterday, paralysing trains by squatting on tracks and setting up a ring of burning tyres around the perimeter of the city.

The Gujjars, traditionally nomadic farmers, demand to be socially downgraded in order to gain government jobs and university places. Thousands gathered at major intersections around New Delhi, setting up road blocks.

Paramilitary forces and police were drafted in to stop violence but most stood by, wary after a week of bloodshed in northern India which left 39 people dead – 38 of them shot by security forces. Only when the mob threatened to surge past police lines did forces fire teargas to quell the stone-throwing crowds.

Community leaders have been demanding special status for several years. The Gujjars, already considered disadvantaged, want to be reclassified further down the Hindu hierarchy.

Continued . . .