Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Friday, June 13, 2003

Okay, here's my question. If you fired some workers why would you then attend a meeting to discuss severence pay with a bunch of men armed with spears?

Workers fired from a Volvo dealership in Indonesia attacked their Swedish boss with spears during a dispute over severance pay, police said Friday.

Michael Olsson was stabbed in the back and slashed in the face at a meeting with the workers last week in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo, police said.

< email | 6/13/2003 03:24:00 PM | link


Eighty cracks have been revealed in China's colossal Three Gorges Dam, just days after engineers closed the dam's sluice gates and began filling a 640 kilometre long reservoir.

Pan Jiazhong, head of the dam's inspection group, said: "If water enters these cracks there could be negative effects, so we are fixing them very carefully. However, he denied that the cracks, up to 10 metres long, mean that the dam is seriously damaged.

Experts contacted by New Scientist agree, saying a catastrophic failure is unlikely. "It's a statistical fact that most dam failures occur on first filling. But the Chinese are very competent engineers, so I would not be overly concerned," says Richard Cox, a dam supervising engineer for the UK Environment Agency.

< email | 6/13/2003 03:21:00 PM | link

Now that's a useful idiot.

Operation Iraqi Freedom prompted Jim Taylor, a retired journalist and author who has interviewed some of the most high-profile figures in the Arab world, to initiate a letter-writing campaign to help "save the life" of Aziz.

Taylor said he grew close to Aziz after discovering they shared the Catholic faith and worshipped at the same church in Baghdad.

"Tariq Aziz was called one of the world's greatest statesmen, and now he is one of the world's greatest war criminals," Taylor said. "And the same people who praised him now want to try and execute him in some kind of kangaroo court, which would be illegal and have no standing at the U.N. or the World Court."

Who called Aziz one of the "world's greatest statesmen"? Taylor? People said the same about Stalin and Hitler at some point. Should they not be villified and have faced trial of captured?

Taylor, 79, who has lived in Scottsdale for 22 years, worked as a publicist for Saddam's regime from 1982 to 1984 during the Iran-Iraq war. He is one of the few Americans with an inside view of the oil-rich nation whose fortunes and misfortunes have split world opinion.

Though most Americans will remember Saddam as a brutal tyrant, Taylor said he doesn't feel hatred for him because of how well he was treated in Baghdad.

"I will always remember him because he sent me to hear the lilting strains of Tales of the Vienna Woods and other waltzes while drinking champagne," Taylor said through a drawl evolved from his native Tennessee.

Other gifts such as an Iraqi headdress from Saddam, which sits on Taylor's couch like a decorative pillow, and an autographed portrait of the late King Hussein of Jordan, are scattered about his house.

Hey, he started two wars to capture land? He ran a police state and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis? Forget all that, he was nice to Taylor and that's what really counts, I guess.

< email | 6/13/2003 02:19:00 PM | link

Happy Birthday

The 228th Birthday of The United States Army and the logo for this year's theme recognize our efforts to transform this, the most respected Army in the world, into a force that is strategically responsive and dominant at every point along the spectrum of operations--all while engaged in the ongoing global war against terrorism.

< email | 6/13/2003 01:56:00 PM | link

Another mass grave.

Khabat, which speaks for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Massoud Barzani, said hundreds of Kurds had been digging up at the site since Wednesday to unearth remains of their loved ones.

The paper claimed that the remains of 3,000 civilians, including women and children, had been unearthed at the site west of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk on the road to Baiji.

< email | 6/13/2003 01:54:00 PM | link

Well, that can't be good news

Western intelligence sources said Iran and North Korea have exchanged several visits of nuclear scientists over the past five six months. They said the visits focused on an effort to duplicate nuclear infrastructure assets. Iran and North Korea want to ensure that their nuclear weapons programs can withstand an international embargo or military strike.

"The level of Iranian-North Korean nuclear cooperation this year has risen dramatically," a senior intelligence source who monitors North Korea said. "Iran is moving away from relying on Russia and sees North Korea as its major guarantor of Teheran's nuclear program."

A U.S. official confirmed the exchange of visits between Iranian and North Korean nuclear scientists during 2003. The official said Teheran has sought to acquire North Korean nuclear weapons expertise as Russia comes under increasing U.S. pressure to suspend construction of the Bushehr nuclear reactor.

< email | 6/13/2003 01:45:00 PM | link

Say what now?

A Chinese zoo has agreed to suspend its policy of allowing visitors to shoot some of its animals. The zoo, in Dandong, rented out rifles and allowed people into special areas where they could shoot the animals.

It was seen as a unique attraction to bring in more visitors but led to numerous complaints from animal lovers. Zoo staff defended themselves, saying visitors were only allowed to kill unprotected species.

< email | 6/13/2003 12:07:00 PM | link

Kind of shocking, really. China announced that there are now 10 million privately owned cars in the country. For a country of more than 2 billion people.

< email | 6/13/2003 12:01:00 PM | link

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Wow! The Chiracs sure do enjoy fine food, to what would seem an...excessive...degree.

A Paris investigating magistrate has overruled the recommendation of a senior public prosecutor and set up a formal inquiry into the £1.4m grocery bill claimed by Jacques Chirac and his wife during eight of the 18 years that the president spent as mayor of the French capital.

While Mr Chirac cannot be prosecuted (or questioned) as long as he remains in office, the decision could affect his wife, Bernadette, who may have to explain how the couple could consume up to £100 of fruit and veg and £37 of tea and coffee a day, mostly paid for in cash and justified with receipts which, in many cases, appear to have been doctored.

Because most of the files from the early years of the Chirac tenure were shredded before municipal elections in 2000, the report covers only the years 1987-1995. But the evidence looks strong: during those eight years alone, the Chiracs claimed for, and were reimbursed, £1.45m for their personal food bills.

Some £950,000 of the bills, which are entirely separate from the mayor's annual £1m entertainment budget, were paid in cash apparently taken from the proceeds of the town hall's staff bar. The money was reimbursed in exchange for receipts that "in many instances give rise to suspicions of substantial fraud", the report says.

< email | 6/12/2003 02:32:00 PM | link

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

And these are some of the brave Americans and Brits who made possible the chance for these people to bring their families home and to not live in fear again. The pettiness of those that still harbor a spiteful and unquenchable rage that Saddam is now gone at the hands of a coalition led by George Bush is sickening. That people can even consider the images below and think of nothing but how wrong unjust and illegal the war was, are driven by nothing by pure unreasoning hatred. We should be looking forward for ways to assure these people a better future where the generations to come can live in peace and without fear, yet there are those who would prefer to hurl invective rather than funnel energy into helping achieve that future.

< email | 6/11/2003 08:35:00 PM | link

Most of the remains themselves cannot be identified so items that were on the murdered, such as their shoes, are necessary for identification.

< email | 6/11/2003 08:32:00 PM | link

This woman has just found the remains one of her missing brothers. But, I am sure that she despises the rouge American nation for removing the boot that crushed her family and made her afraid to search for them until now.

< email | 6/11/2003 08:30:00 PM | link

Mahmoud Jasim cries over the remains of his uncle Adnan Ihsan but, he should understand that the American, British, Australian and Polish soldiers who created the opportunity for him to finally learn the fate of his uncle are evil pawns.

< email | 6/11/2003 08:28:00 PM | link

Bushra Jabbar has just found the remains of her mother and two sisters. Maybe you could tell her that she should have waited a few more years until she had the freedom to search for her family.

< email | 6/11/2003 04:04:00 PM | link

Or perhaps, Bushra Jaber Abdalah who has just found the remains of her daughter. She still has the remains of two more children to find. Saddam surely deserved a few more years to murder any further family members that may have some unkind words for his regime, right?

< email | 6/11/2003 04:03:00 PM | link

Again, for those who opposed the war who think that we who supported it only thought about WMD or oil, imagine you were this woman. Halima Karim is searching through plastic bags of personal effects found among the dead in a mass grave of 5,000. She is looking for her missing son. I know that many places are just as bad (if not worse. N Korea, for one) but is that sufficient reason to resent the demise of Saddam's regime? Would you tell her that we have done her and her people a great wrong? What do you think she would say to you?

< email | 6/11/2003 03:56:00 PM | link

Slideshow and story of Iraq mass graves.

Layla Abdulhussein, 30, and her 33-year-old sister Mariam come here every week to find out about their only brother, Fuad, who disappeared in 1981 at the age of 25.

"He was a university student majoring in law and one of the top students in his class," says Layla.

"One day he went to a mosque and never came back. Three years later the secret police came to our house and told us we should not give him a funeral. We were not allowed to ask any questions.

"I don't believe my brother is still alive," she admits ruefully.

"I just want to know what happened to him and hope to recover his remains so that we can bury him in Najaf," she says, referring to the central Iraqi pilgrimage city where Shiite Muslims traditionally inter their dead.

Iyad Uday, a jobless 40-year-old Shiite, managed to track down the name of his father Sayed, who was taken by the secret police in 1980.

"When the police came to our house, my father told me to take care of his shops' keys," Uday said, adding his father was a member of the Dawa party, the first Shiite group to dare to take on Saddam's regime.

"My father was a merchant and our neighbors loved him. He helped poor people. I just want to give him a very nice funeral," he says.

Muhsen Jalub, a 63-year-old Shiite, recalls the horror of losing his two sons.

"My boys were 15 and 17. The elder one disappeared in 1992, the younger one two years later. Baath party members came to my house three years afterwards to take all my sons' belongings.

"I still don't know what happened to them and I've been crying all these years.

"If I were able to see my sons now, I would tell them we are no longer living under terror and that Saddam is gone," says Jalub.

After a one-hour wait, the Abdulhussein sisters finally learn their brother's fate -- he was executed in 1982.

"I had a slight hope that my brother was alive somewhere. But that is totally gone now," said Mariam, her eyes welling with tears.

"I just wish I could hug him and hold his hand one more time. I thank him for teaching us the principles of life such as having faith in God and being good to people," the elder sister says.

"He will always be living in our hearts."

Stories like this won't make the front page of the NY Times, and will not lead off the night on ABC, BBC, CBS, NBC. But a few dozen missing artifacts (and I have my degree in Archaeology) and they wail and scream and denounce and resign. 170,000 thousand artifacts are falsely reported to be missing from the museum in Baghdad and it makes the front page of every major paper, news programs devote hours of coverage, pundits denounce the Administration and those who support them in this war, government officials quit in uninformed disgust. Dozens of mass graves filled with at least 290,000 dead Iraqi men, women and children are being uncovered every day and the Media figures this isn't a major story that deserves front page or top of the show coverage. What is wrong with us? Weapons of Mass Destruction? At what point do these hundreds of thousands of graves become "Mass Destruction"?

< email | 6/11/2003 03:25:00 PM | link

Sounds like Thabo Mbeki is just washing his hands of the mess. Unfortunately by still refusing to even pass along a single bad word for the murder and oppression of Mugabe he is giving Comrade Bob free rein to do as he pleases.

President Thabo Mbeki said on Wednesday it was up to Zimbabwe's leadership to tackle the country's internal political strife through dialogue.

No foreign countries would be able to solve Zimbabwe's problems, he told reporters on the fringes of a meeting of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

"The solution of the problems of Zimbabwe really lies in the hands of the Zimbabwe leadership," he said.

If by 'solution', Mbeki means 'killing everyone who is opposed to Zanu PF' then yes, the 'solution' (guns and famine) are in the hands of Zimbabwe's leadership (Mugabe).

Mbeki did not mention MDC leader Morgan Tsangvirai, who appeared in court in Harare on Wednesday on treason charges resulting from anti-government protests last week, and said he had no idea what impact the protests would have.

"I don't think that making particular statements in public is going to find a solution to this problem," Mbeki commented.

Way to be a hypocritical weak spineless worm in the face of a murderer. Wonder if he would have given the same advice to international opponents of Apartheid?

< email | 6/11/2003 02:23:00 PM | link

In calling Bush and Blair liars does this this Reverend even realize the irony in his argument here?

'We now have the same problems in Iraq as they have in Cambodia,' added Mr Rennie, who has participated in charity work in Cambodia for many years.

'There are children in Iraq with their arms and legs blown off. I want to know where our local MPs stand now. The only reason MPs voted for a war was that they thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

I want to know where Rev Rennie stood while hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men women and children were marched off to killing fields, just like in Cambodia. I want to know what the good Rev has to say about the political prison for children that was liberated by American soldiers. I want to know what his thoughts are on the mass grave filled with children, many of whom may have been buried alive. For that matter I wonder where the good Rev stood while the Khmer Rouge was busy murdering nearly one and a half million Cambodians.

< email | 6/11/2003 02:14:00 PM | link

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

That's how it works.

Thai authorities have arrested a senior Singaporean member of the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah group who was allegedly planning terrorist attacks against embassies in Thailand, the Singapore government said Tuesday.

It said Arifin was an instructor in Jemaah Islamiyah's military training and security unit. He was trained to use weapons and explosives at a camp at Mindanao in the southern Philippines run by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an Islamic separatist group, it added.

Jemaah Islamiyah is the group that most likely carried out the Bali attack and they also regularly target Christians in Sulawesi and Ambon, which are just south of Mindanao, where the MILF is based and carries out their terrorist attacks in an effort to create an Islamist State. Al Qaeda aids these groups by training and supplying experts, materials and money as well as facilitating contacts with other like-minded terrorist organizations

< email | 6/10/2003 04:21:00 PM | link

The man known as Turkey's "Schindler", Selahattin Ulkuman, died today. Interesting story.

Selahattin Ulkumen was the Turkish consul-general on the island of Rhodes which was under German occuaption. In late July 1944, the Germans began the deportation of the island’s 1,700 Jews. Ulkumen managed to save approximately 50 Jews, 13 of them Turkish citizens, the rest with some Turkish connection. In protecting those who were not Turkish citizens, he clearly acted on his own initiative. In one case, survivor Albert Franko was on a transport to Auschwitz from Piraeus. Whilst still in Greek territory, he was taken off the train thanks to the intervention of Ulkumen, who was informed that Franko’s wife was a Turkish citizen. Another survivor, Matilda Toriel relates that she was a Turkish citizen living in Rhodes and married to an Italian citizen. On July 18, 1944, all the Jews were told to appear at Gestapo headquarters the following day. As she prepared to enter the building, Ulkumen approached her and told her not to go in. It was the first time she had ever met him. He told her to wait until he had managed to release her husband. As her husband later told her, Ulkumen requested that the Germans release the Turkish citizens and their families, who numbered only 15 at the time. However, Ukumen added another 25-30 people to the list whom he knew had allowed their citizenship to lapse. The Gestapo, suspecting him, demanded to see their papers, which they did not have. Ulkumen however returned to the Gestapo building, insisting that according to Turkish law, spouses of Turkish citizens were considered to be citizens themselves, and demanded their release. Matilda later discovered that no such law existed, and that Ulkumen had simply fabricated it in order to save the Jews. In the end, all those on Ulkumen’s list were released. All the rest of the Jews on the island, some 1,700, were deported to Auschwitz.

< email | 6/10/2003 04:00:00 PM | link

So, explain this. Hamas and Islamic Jihad reject Abu Mazen's call for a cease fire. Abu Mazen said he would not use force to crackdown on the terrorist groups. Then, a couple of days ago, Hamas and Islamic Jihad carried out a terrorist attack and killed four Israelis. Now Israel attempts to strike against a Hamas leader who is openly living out in the public, unimpeded by the Palestinian security groups that are supposed to be implementing the 'road map'. And now everyone is accusing Israel of derailing said 'road map'?

< email | 6/10/2003 03:50:00 PM | link

Saddam manipulated and lied to the media (who were very sceptical I am sure) about sanctions killing Iraqi children? I just don't know who to believe anymore.

Most of the youngsters suffered from leukemia, the head of the hospital said, and all of the leukemia patients died.

The regime pinned the blame on the sanctions after the 1991 Persian Gulf war, using the hospital and its victims as an example of how the West--particularly the United States--allowed children to die.

But now, after the U.S.-led war in Iraq that ousted Hussein, hospital staff members say they knew all along that the regime intentionally withheld vital medicine for propaganda purposes. That decision, they said, led to thousands of deaths.

"You asked why a government would not give medicine to children," said Dr. Oasem Al Taey, who has run the hospital since U.S. forces entered Baghdad on April 9. "They made this a place of death. They were willing to sacrifice the children for the sake of propaganda."

Al Taey, who was elected by the staff to head the hospital after former chief Ali Al Timemy fled, said UN sanctions against Iraq contributed to the hospital's difficulties in obtaining supplies needed to care for infants and children.

"This made it harder to give help," he said. "But there were also internal sanctions," he added, explaining that Hussein's Baath Party so dominated the distribution of medicine and vital equipment that the staff could not get what was needed for the children.

"This is what we could expect," said Dr. Eaman Al Gobory, drawing her index finger under her chin as if slitting her throat.

Al Taey and Al Gobory said that after U.S. forces took control of Baghdad, they found ample supplies of medicine and sophisticated medical equipment that could have benefited the children stored in the Idn-Sina Hospital on the grounds of the Republican Palace along the Tigris River.

It was one of Hussein's biggest palace complexes, and the hospital served senior Baath Party members.

And now even the people at Voices in the Wilderness are admitting it.

Kathy Kelly, an aid worker with Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness who was in Iraq this spring when the first U.S. cruise missiles began falling on Baghdad, said the Hussein regime required all foreign aid agencies to turn over donated pharmaceuticals to the Ministry of Health.

A grass-roots group organized to end sanctions against Iraq, Voices in the Wilderness grew weary of surrendering prescription drugs to Hussein's administrators, said Kelly, a member of the group's Iraq Peace Team.

"When we realized we were turning over the medicines and losing control, we were reluctant to hand the medicines over," she said. "It was true that once you turned your medicines over to the Ministry of Health, we heard rumors that they weren't being distributed. We never knew for sure. It was difficult to document."

So Voices in the Wilderness opted to distribute its donated drugs through alternative channels, including other aid groups working in southern Iraq as well as under-the-radar pharmacies run by Iraqi doctors.

After several trips to Iraq that included regular visits to Saddam Children's Hospital, Kelly said she believed Hussein was capable of using sick children as propaganda tools.

"All I can tell you is that children were dying horrible and torturous deaths on a daily basis. There was a zero percent cure rate," she said. "They [were] a ruthless government that tried to use propaganda to gain ground."

Yet before now their strict line was that it was all the fault of US sanctions.

Remember this when you are told that our sanctionas and embargos on Cuba and North Korea and Iran are causing deaths.

< email | 6/10/2003 02:13:00 PM | link

Good story about the Marines rebuilding schools in Iraq.

When 15-year-old Hazim Motter rang the iron bell June 8, it marked the completion of three newly renovated public school buildings. It also symbolized a new beginning for the1, 200 school children that attend here.

Hazim attends the Al Diwaniyah Advanced School, one of a trio of schools that were renovated through a collaborative effort of Army, Marine and Navy forces. The two other schools Secondary School of Al Karama, and the Al Nayrayn Primary School.

To mark the occasion, the First Marine Division offered a metal bell that will hang in the advanced secondary school.

The bell boasts the engraved inscription, "Presented to the Children of Iraq From the First Marine Division."

Maj. Rod Legowski, the executive officer for 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines said 189 similar bells would be distributed among seven providences in southern Iraq. Each bell cost about $2,000 and was cast in the United States.

"Our motivation was to shape the children of Iraq with a symbol that focuses on their freedom and their lives," Legowski said.

The Al Diwaniyah school complex was chosen as the site of the inaugural bell because of the magnitude of the project, which involved rehabilitating all three school buildings. Al Diwaniyah's mayor, school board officials and parents attended the festive opening.

Hamid Mjeed is a music teacher at the Al Nahrayn Primary School whose young students performed two songs to mark the special occasion. He said the project signifies a growing trust between the Iraqi people and coalition forces.

Repairs to the three schools totaled nearly $100,000. The work took 17 days to complete.

Somehow the media missed all of this. They were too busy telling us about how all of the good Ba'athist folks from the former Ministry of Information, who spread all of Saddam's lies and hid all of his atrocities while escorting Western media around, were upset becuase they are without jobs now.

< email | 6/10/2003 02:03:00 PM | link

The Italian peace-keeping contingent has landed in Basra. Burlusconi was also the first European leader to agree to isolate Arafat and has been supportive of Israel's entrance into the EU.

As the Italian troops unloaded 10 military vehicles from a military plane in Basra, Major Vincenzo Lauro told Reuters they had arrived to prepare for the deployment of a 1,700-strong Italian peacekeeping contingent due by the end of June.

The Italian force, including army, navy and airforce personnel, will be based in Basra under British control.

A British military spokesman said an advance party of Dutch troops was due in Basra on Thursday. The Netherlands said last week it would send 1,100 marines to the British-controlled zone in southern Iraq.

More than 10 countries have also pledged troops for a separate 7,500-strong Polish-led force to be deployed in south-central Iraq.

< email | 6/10/2003 01:59:00 PM | link

Two more from the Deck are in custody.

US forces have captured two more of the 55 most wanted Iraqis, including a former member of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, officials said today.

Latif Nusayyif al-Jasim al-Dulaymi, number 18 on the top 55 list, was the most senior man captured.

He is a former member of Saddam’s Revolutionary Command Council, the small committee of the former dictator’s top advisers, and a former deputy secretary of the Baath Party’s military bureau.

The second man captured was a top official in the chemical weapons corps of the Iraqi military.

Brig Gen Husayn al-Awadi, number 53 on the list. He was also a regional Baath Party leader in the Ninawa region of northern Iraq.

< email | 6/10/2003 01:50:00 PM | link

So, why the HELL are they even there?

The French intervention on behalf of the UN in Congo will be short-lived and localised and will have a negligible impact on tribal conflict, according to a French military briefing paper obtained by the Guardian.

The document confirms military analysts' pessimism about the likely success of the mission, which began on Friday, to rein in the latest outburst of violence in the civil war which has killed an estimated 4.7 million people in four years.

The document says: "The operation in Bunia is politicaly [sic] and military [sic] high risk; very sensitive and complex. France has no specific interest in the area except solidarity with the international community." The end of the intervention, it says, has been "firmly established at Sept 1st 2003", by which time a contingent of Bangladeshi peacekeepers is expected in Bunia.

A brief patrol by the French troops yesterday made the mission's modest ambitions apparent. Four jeeps packed with infantrymen drove 200 metres through the town centre, accompanied by as many western journalists. For 20 minutes groups of children sang for the cameras, then the troops rolled back to their airport base.

There was no patrol on Saturday during a gun battle in central Bunia. "We are here to secure the airport for the arrival of the international force. It is not our mandate to intervene in fighting between armed groups, only in direct attacks on civilians," the colonel in command said.

< email | 6/10/2003 01:16:00 PM | link

Chirac and Schroeder are praising Hizbollah?

"Hizbollah is not a current problem. Its political and military wings have not voiced themselves and made themselves noticeable for quite some time," Chirac said during a joint news conference at the

For his part, Schroeder stressed that he 'completely shared'
Chirac's position.

IRNA does come right out and show their agenda, though.

America and the criminal Israeli regime have repeatedly called on
European countries to increase their political pressure on Hizbollah
to cease its anti-Zionist liberation struggle.

< email | 6/10/2003 01:08:00 PM | link

You know. If these kinds of protests were happening anywhere else, let alone Baghdad, the world media wouldn't be able to stop talking about it. And probably looking for some way to blame America.

Among those hitting the picket lines Tuesday were teachers, police officers, customs officers and bank employees.

Weary travellers faced long waits at airports after air traffic controllers walked off the job.

Up to 80 per cent of flights to and from French airports were cancelled, and few trains were running during the morning rush-hour in Paris. Traffic authorities reported 280 kilometres of congestion around the capital.

< email | 6/10/2003 12:57:00 PM | link

Rioting and unrest have forced the closure of the US Embassy....in France.

The US embassy in Paris has been closed to the public for security reasons, as tens of thousands of demonstrators haven taken to the streets to protest against pension reform plans, State Department officials said.

"We thought it would be a prudent move, given that there are about 50,000 people protesting in the vicinity," one official said. "People are still working inside, but we have closed to the public for the day."

< email | 6/10/2003 12:55:00 PM | link

Hmmm. China is making a diplomatic push in the oil-rich Central Asian Capsian Basin. The thrusts and counter-thrusts sound like the early moves of another 'Great Game'. China needs the imported oil (even though much of China remains unexplored and there are no reliable estimates of oil reserves there) and it is in our best interest to make sure that Central Asia does not become a mega-'client state' of China. Throw in Russia and things get interesting.

"For the Chinese, a lack of domestic energy supply and a volatile external source is a threat to domestic development," said Matthew Oresman, a research assistant for the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Washington, DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. "They have no strategic oil reserves. There’s a certain point where a Kazakhstan pipeline almost becomes a national security need."

"The Chinese need a secure route for oil, and Central Asia is a great option," Oresman added. "The Chinese are taking big risks by gambling on places that are far away."

For Caspian Basin states, China’s rising role in the region is a welcome development. Following the US-British ouster of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in Iraq, the outlook for Caspian Basin energy exports, especially for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, has become increasingly murky.

US experts and officials have suggested that expanded Iraqi oil exports could hurt Western demand for BTC resources. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archives]. Washington’s envoy for Caspian energy issues, Steven Mann, recently indicated that the increased competition could put pressure on Caspian states – especially Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – to reform their legal frameworks to make their respective countries more appealing for foreign investors.

Mann’s comments stand in sharp contrast to the regional trend over the past few years. Regional leaders, such as Nazarbayev, have exhibited increasing authoritarian tendencies. In recent months, officials in Central Asia have been annoyed by US criticism, mainly concerning political issues and human rights. Some appeared to have become more wary of a dominant US economic and strategic presence in the Caspian Basin, and have sought to dilute Washington’s regional influence. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archives].

By engaging China, Central Asian leaders can gain additional leverage in their dealings with Washington, said Richard Bush, the director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution. In addition to China and the United States, most regional leaders have maintained strong ties with Central Asia’s traditional protector – Russia. In pursing a "multi-vectored policy," Central Asian leaders hope to utilize the intense competition among regional powers to maximize their strategic and economic benefits.

"The Chinese counter or balance the US role in the region," Bush said. "China is [already] the biggest trading partner for many of these Central Asian countries. They want to balance their economic interests."

< email | 6/10/2003 12:03:00 PM | link

Comrade Bob's thugs are going after all opposition voices.

Archbishop Pius Ncube was detained briefly on Friday in his Bulawayo chapel, by state security agents, who warned him to desist from discussing political issues before the start of interdenominational prayers for justice and peace in Zimbabwe.

"They warned that no political party regalia should be worn during the prayers, they also said inflammatory statements were not to be allowed during the church service," Pius Ncube told a packed city cathedral before the beginning of the prayers.

"We told them that this is purely a church event with no party politics to be addressed, but we can not avoid addressing political issues affecting the people of Zimbabwe, politics is about food, shelter, school fees for your children, jobs and everything to do with our normal day to day activities," he said.

The church service, held amidst hovering sounds of military helicopters, was attended by human rights activists, Christians from all denominations and opposition MDC Members of Parliament, who included Paul Themba Nyathi, David Coltart and party Vice President, Gibson Sibanda.

< email | 6/10/2003 11:14:00 AM | link

Mbeki ocntinues to be completely unhelpful when it comes to Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe's Minister of Science is attending a Commonwealth conference in South Africa in defiance of the Commonwealth ban on Robert Mugabe and members of his government.

There should have been a contingent of South African police waiting to turn him back. Instead he is under police protection in his South African Hotel.

< email | 6/10/2003 11:13:00 AM | link

Excellent story about the furor and attendent truth about the 'looting' of the Baghdad Museum. Money quote:

Furious, I conclude two things from all this. The first is the credulousness of many western academics and others who cannot conceive that a plausible and intelligent fellow-professional might have been an apparatchiks of a fascist regime and a propagandist for his own past. The second is that - these days - you cannot say anything too bad about the Yanks and not be believed.

< email | 6/10/2003 11:11:00 AM | link

Monday, June 09, 2003

Nefertiti's mummuy, found?

Joann Fletcher, a mummification specialist from the University of York who led the expedition, said her team may have unearthed Nefertiti from a secret chamber in tomb KV35 in Egypt's Valley of the Kings in Luxor.

Nefertiti, which means "the beautiful woman has come," has long been considered one of the most powerful women of ancient Egypt. Her tomb was found near that of King Tut, the teen-age king who ruled Egypt in the 14th century BC.

"After 12 years of searching for Nefertiti it was probably the most amazing experience of my life," said Fletcher in a statement released by the Washington-based Discovery Channel, which funded the expedition.

"Although we can only suggest the identity as a strong possibility, the findings certainly have some wide-ranging implications for Egyptology," she added.

< email | 6/09/2003 04:38:00 PM | link

Prison in Iraq. ‘Everyone Confessed’

Talking to Iraqis who survived their torturers, it’s striking how many of them say they resisted giving in despite the torment. Some say religious faith kept them going, others held out, they say, because they knew to confess would be to die at the end of a rope. Others say they were simply too tough to break.

And, judging from the many thousands of executions now coming to light, most of them are probably lying. Nabil Abdul Ali, a 30-year-old man from the town of Abu Khassib, is not one of them. He was tortured and broken, and willing to admit it. So was his father, and each of his three surviving brothers, he says. Probably as a result, their fourth brother was executed, and their father died of his travails.

Torture was the rule, not the exception, in Saddam’s prisons, at least for anyone suspected of opposing the regime. Administered daily, sometimes twice daily, it was used to extract confessions, and to gain evidence about other opponents of the regime. Prisoners knew if they broke and admitted they had opposed Saddam, the result would be execution, usually the next morning. So far more often, when they could bear no more, they would simply implicate friends. Those friends would in turn implicate others. In just a single case file purloined from records of the mukhabarat, Iraq’s secret police , the arrest of Satter Jaber Meslain, a suspected member of the banned Shiite group Al Dawa, led to the implication of 54 other people over the two years of the investigation. Often this tactic only prolonged the original victim’s agony; those he implicated would end up implicating him too. In that particular 1983 case (Department of General Security, Section 45, file number 12584, record locator 507989493) all 55 were executed.

The Ali family was among 600 Shiite families rounded up in the southern town of Abu Khassib after a Shiite uprising swept the south of the country in 1999. It had been sparked by the murder in Najaf of a leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Muhammed al-Sadr, which was widely blamed on Saddam’s regime. They were imprisoned at State Security headquarters in Basra at first; later the brothers were moved to the Adult Reeducation Jail in Basra. In Nabil Ali’s own family, there were 11 persons arrested, of whom five were women and children, two of them infants. The others were Ali and his four brothers and their father. “It was an insult to even take our women into jail,” says Ali. The women weren’t tortured, except by the deplorable prison conditions, but their presence in prison was used as a threat to the men. “They would say, ‘I’m going to get your mother or sister in front of you and take off all their clothes,” Ali recalls . Another prisoner confessed, he said, after the guards raped his wife in front of them.

< email | 6/09/2003 03:05:00 PM | link

More mass graves and a possible lead on still missing Kuwaitis.

Two eyewitnesses from the village of Salman Pak said they had seen 115 corpses stacked in piles here April 10, all of them men with their hands tied behind their backs who had been shot in the back of the head. In attempts to exhume bodies Saturday and Sunday, Iraqis retrieved the remains of eight victims, none of whom, however, appeared to have died recently.

Meanwhile, the remains of a Kuwaiti man missing since Iraq's occupation of Kuwait 12 years ago have been discovered at a mass grave near the southern Iraqi city of Samawah, Kuwaiti officials said in Kuwait City.

Kuwaiti Cabinet Affairs Minister Mohammed Sharar said evidence suggests the man was shot sometime between 1991 and 1992.

He was identified by DNA as Saad Meshaal Aswad al-Anzi, one of hundreds of Kuwaitis whose fate has been in question since they were detained by Iraqi troops during the 1990 invasion that led to the first Gulf War.

< email | 6/09/2003 02:51:00 PM | link

A new museum for the treasures of Ancient Egypt.

Egypt has unveiled the design of a grand new museum to house its wealth of pharaonic treasures.

The new Grand Museum of Egypt will be built into a desert hillside, with triangular panels on the front and roof, mirroring the shape of its near neighbours, the ancient pyramids at Giza.

The new museum has been designed by an Irish firm and will cost an estimated $350 million to build.

Work is expected to get underway this year and the new museum is expected to be finished in 2007.

The new museum is expected to exhibit some 100,000 pieces taken from storerooms and displays at central Cairo's 100-year-old Egyptian Museum, which has been criticised internationally for its poor labelling and jumbled layout.

About time. The museum in Cairo is horrible. There is no place inside the actual museum, once you've paid for admission, to sit and rest or even get a bottle of water.

< email | 6/09/2003 02:11:00 PM | link

See. No matter what. It is always America's fault. The EU is considering sanctions on Castro becuase of his most recent round of oppression? Blame the US.

"A small gang, a mafia, has joined with the yankee imperialists," Castro said of his critics, describing them as "allies of facist imperialism."

This group is "scandalously serving the neo-facist government of the United States," Castro said.

On Friday Cuban Foreign Affairs Minister Felipe Perez Roque said that the EU decision was an "over-reaction," and Europe had "caved in to . . . the battering waves of U.S. policy toward Cuba."

And apparently if you liked the last round of dissidents being sent off to the gulags, there is more to come.

"New and large battles await us," Castro added. In the next days "we will have to talk a lot and we will have to unmask many," he said, adding that the events should be "well thought out."

< email | 6/09/2003 01:51:00 PM | link

No matter what the situation, always blame America.

Says Comrade Bob:

"I hope . . . the British and the United States embassies realise that as they sponsor the MDC and instigate it, they are doing so in order to achieve an illegal objective . . . and I warn their instigation cannot be tolerated forever by my government."

< email | 6/09/2003 12:11:00 PM | link

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