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The First Church of Common Sense

I suspected the often quoted UPI story below about a human shield "pastor" who "was shocked back to reality", was a lie:

By Arnaud de Borchgrave
UPI Editor at Large
From the International Desk

AMMAN, Jordan, March 21 (UPI) --

A group of American anti-war demonstrators who came to Iraq with Japanese human shield volunteers made it across the border today with 14 hours of uncensored video, all shot without Iraqi government minders present. Kenneth Joseph, a young American pastor with the Assyrian Church of the East, told UPI the trip "had shocked me back to reality." Some of the Iraqis he interviewed on camera "told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn't start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain their freedom from Saddam's bloody tyranny. They convinced me that Saddam was a monster the likes of which the world had not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists. Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so they could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head."

I contacted the Assyrian Church of the East, asking for confirmation. I received this reply from Bishop Soro:

From: ABSoro@aol.com
Date: Tue, 25 Mar 2003 08:17:47 EST
Subject: Re: Can you confirm this story?

Johnny: The only thing that I can confirm is that Kenneth Joseph, IS NOT a pastor with the Assyrian Church of the East nor has he been associated with the Assyrian Church in any shape or form.

Bishop Soro
Secretary General of Interchurch Relations
Assyrian Church of the East

Read the Kenneth Joseph Story, by Carol Lipton None of the peace organizations or human shield groups contacted had ever heard of Kenneth Joseph, nor is his name found on any human shield-related websites. Who is he really?


Check out this story from Democrats.com

UPI Now Owned By Bush/GOP Benefactor Reverend Moon
03-Apr-01

From Brill's Content: "Some UPI employees, such as the doyenne of the White House press corps, Helen Thomas, who had stuck with the service through its decline, resigned to protest the purchase [by Moon's News World]." Check out the Moonie background of UPI's head Arnaud de Borchgrave, especially as former editor-in-chief of the Washington Times. De Borchgrave also worked at the Richard Mellon Scaife-financed right wing think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). UPI now provides news items for such Scaife-linked outfits as Chris Ruddy's NewsMax and the Drudge Report. "De Borchgrave's replacement, at least for now, is News World CEO Douglas Joo, probably not a good omen to those concerned about UPI's editorial independence." At the Washington Times, reporters and editors resigned over Moon's editorial interference. The article also mentions how Moon has donated $1 million to the Bush Library, and Bush Sr.'s speeches at Moonie events.

Bush backer sponsoring pro-war rallies
Oliver Burkeman in Washington
Wednesday March 26, 2003
The Guardian

They look like spontaneous expressions of pro-war sentiment, "patriotic rallies" drawing crowds of tens of thousands across the American heartland.

In a counterpoint to anti-war demonstrations, supporters of war in Iraq have descended on cities from Fort Wayne to Cleveland, and Atlanta to Philadelphia. They wave flags, messages of support for the troops - and also banners attacking liberals, excoriating the UN, and in one case, advising: "Bomb France Now."

But many of the rallies, it turns out, have been organised and paid for by Clear Channel Inc - the country's largest radio conglomerate, owning 1,200 stations - which is not only reporting on the war at the same time, but whose close links with President Bush stretch back to his earliest, much-criticised financial dealings as governor of Texas. The company has paid advertising costs and for the hire of musicians for the rallies.

Tom Hicks, Clear Channel's vice-chairman, is a past donor to Bush's political campaigning. The two were at the centre of a scandal when Mr Bush was governor and when Mr Hicks chaired a University of Texas investment board that awarded large investment-management contracts to several companies close to the Bush family - including the Carlyle Group, on whose payroll Mr Bush had been until weeks previously, and which still retains his father.

"Should this be happening? No," said Dante Chinni, a senior associate with the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a Columbia University programme based in Washington. "What kind of company is Clear Channel? What's their mission? Are they a media company, a promotional company? For some people, Clear Channel's reporting, for want of a better word, may be the reporting that they're getting on the war in Iraq."

China readies for future U.S. fight
By CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam
Tuesday, March 25, 2003

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- The Iraqi war has convinced the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership that some form of confrontation with the U.S. could come earlier than expected.

Mar 5, 2003

Man Arrested for Wearing Peace T-Shirt

ALBANY, N.Y. (Associated Press) -- A man was charged with trespassing in a mall after he refused to take off a T-shirt that said "Peace on Earth" and "Give peace a chance."

Mall security approached Stephen Downs, 61, and his 31-year-old son, Roger, on Monday night after they were spotted wearing the T-shirts at Crossgates Mall in a suburb of Albany, the men said.

The two said they were asked to remove the shirts made at a store there, or leave the mall. They refused.

The guards returned with a police officer who repeated the ultimatum. The son took his T-shirt off, but the father refused.

"'I said, `All right then, arrest me if you have to,'" Downs said. "So that's what they did. They put the handcuffs on and took me away."

Downs pleaded innocent to the charges Monday night. The New York Civil Liberties Union said it would help with his case if asked.

Report Calls for New U.S. Oceans Agency

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Overfishing, invasive species, pollution and urban sprawl threaten the oceans off America, according to a report released on Wednesday that called for a new federal agency to manage the country's troubled waters.

 

In a review of U.S. ocean policy, the report by the Pew Oceans Commission said marine life and vital coastal habitats were straining under the pressure of increased use and that a "hodgepodge" of laws was doing little to protect them.

"For centuries we have viewed the oceans as beyond our ability to harm and their bounty beyond our ability to deplete. We now know that this is not true," said Leon Panetta, chair of the commission that produced the report and former White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton.

The root cause of the crisis was government's failure to manage the oceans off America and to recognize how activities on land affect coastal ecosystems, said the commission, which was sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trust.

The three-year study of 4.5 million square miles of ocean waters called for a new independent agency to oversee a national oceans policy.

"There needs to be a strong independent national agency," said Roger Rufe of the environmental group The Ocean Conservancy, who was one of the 18 commissioners.

Other recommendations included the creation of regional ocean ecosystem councils and a national system to fully protect marine reserves.

Rufe said one of the most pressing problems was the huge growth in industrialized fishing. "Fish are further out at sea and they (anglers) can use high-tech gear to locate fish. There's no place in the ocean for a fish to hide," he said.

Many species, including ground fish and salmon along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, faced overfishing and 30 percent of fish populations were assessed as being overfished or not sustainable at current fishing levels, it said.

Coastal development and associated sprawl were endangering coastal wetlands and estuaries, according to the report, which said that every eight months nearly 11 million gallons of oil ran off streets and driveways into U.S. waters.

In addition, more than 60 percent of coastal rivers and bays were moderately to severely degraded by nitrogen runoff from sources such as fertilizers.

One of the worst cases was in the Gulf of Mexico, where a "dead zone" the size of Massachusetts emerged each summer because of a lack of oxygen in the water.

Another problem cited was invasive species crowding out native species and altering habitat and food webs. One example was in the San Francisco Bay where more than 175 non-native species were thriving at the expense of local ones.

A presidential panel, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, is also expected to release a report later this year.

Corporates Take Toll on Rights and Environment, Says Amnesty

Fri Feb 21, 2003

Jim Lobe, OneWorld US

WASHINGTON, D.C. Feb 21 (OW-US) - Corporate interests are inflicting a devastating toll on both human rights and the environment in many parts of the world, according to a report released Thursday by Amnesty International, which lambasted the U.S. government for failing to use its influence to protect local activists.

"Amnesty International is alarmed at the disturbing trend to persecute environmental defenders for asserting their basic rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful protest," said Curt Goering, deputy director of Amnesty's U.S. branch (AIUSA).

"In today's global economy, defending the earth and communities' ways of life is often a dangerous enterprise," he said. "The economics of globalization often clashes with universal human rights and the health of our environment."

The report, 'Environmentalists Under Fire,' highlights half a dozen case studies of alleged corporate abuses in Indonesia, Ecuador, Russia, Mexico, India, Chad, and Cameroon. In each case, according to the report, the U.S.--home to many of the world's largest corporations--either failed to intercede with the companies or governments involved or muted public criticism against them.

In perhaps the most blatant example, the U.S. State Department last summer asked a federal judge to dismiss a case brought by Indonesian plaintiffs who had sued ExxonMobil for serious human rights abuses, including torture and killings, committed against them or their family members by Indonesian troops employed to provide security for the company's huge natural-gas operations in Aceh province. The Department said the case could harm cooperation between the U.S. and the Indonesian military in Washington's war on terrorism.

The U.S. government has also promoted ExxonMobil's construction of a major oil pipeline in Chad and Cameroon, despite evidence that the project has worsened civil strife and repression in Chad and also resulted in the persecution of environmental activists in both countries, according to the report.

In Ecuador, environmental and indigenous activists have suffered repression at the hands of state authorities benefiting from investment by Occidental Petroleum and ChevronTexaco, while in Colombia, the U.S. Congress recently approved close to US$100 million to train, equip, and deploy an entire battalion of army troops to protect a pipeline owned by Occidental.

These companies, which have strongly denied that they directed or condoned any of the abuses that have taken place, enjoy considerable influence in Washington, according to Amnesty. Collectively, they contributed $2.8 million dollars to political campaigns during the 2002 election cycle. Of that total, more than $2.2 million went to the Republican Party and its candidates.

But because the U.S. is home to so many powerful corporations, particularly in the most environmentally destructive industries, such as oil, gas, and mining, Amnesty said that the U.S. government should demonstrate leadership in holding companies accountable for their human rights and environmental performance.

"In an increasing number of countries, including many the U.S. identifies as allies--such as Indonesia and Colombia--U.S. power is primarily understood through the actions of multinational corporations with ties to the United States," said Folabi Olagbaju, director of AIUSA's Just Earth! program, which focuses specifically on the persecution of environmental defenders.

"The U.S. government must do more to hold corporations accountable to the highest standards of human rights, or else risk damaging its moral authority at a time when (Washington's) reputation is increasingly suspect," he warned.

Not all the news is bad, according to Amnesty. In the past year, environmental defenders such as Grigory Pasko, a Russian reporter sentenced to serve four years at a labor camp for exposing illegal dumping of nuclear waste by the Russian military, and two Mexican environmental activists jailed on trumped-up charges after exposing illegal logging around their communities, were freed as a result of international grassroots campaigns.

In response to similar efforts, the World Bank has created an International Advisory Group (IAG) to provide independent oversight over the Chad-Cameroon pipeline project to provide local communities with some say over the project's implementation.

Amnesty International USA - The Report on Just Earth!
Friends of the Earth International - Report on Corporate Transparency
Project Underground
OneWorld Campaign on Corporate Accountability

TIME/Europe Magazine poll asks:

Which country really poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?

Results:

North Korea 7.2 %

Iraq 8.3 %

The United States 84.5 %

Total Votes Cast: 343,015 as of Thursday, February 06, 2003


Bush Links Faith and Agenda In Speech to Broadcast Group

By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 11, 2003; Page A02

NASHVILLE, Feb. 10 -- President Bush has addressed countless audiences as commander in chief. Today, he was introduced as "our friend and brother in Christ."

Appearing at the National Religious Broadcasters convention, before a backdrop that read "Advancing Christian Communications," the president was hailed as a man who "unapologetically proclaims his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." Bush, in a strikingly religious address even for a president long comfortable with such speech, cast the full range of his agenda -- foreign, domestic and economic -- in spiritual terms.

"I welcome faith," Bush said after he was greeted with rock star adulation. "I welcome faith to help solve the nation's deepest problems." Attendees called out "amen" as Bush spoke, and some waved rhythmically as they did during the hymns that preceded his speech.

About the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bush said: "We're being challenged. We're meeting those challenges because of our faith. . . . We carried our grief to the Lord Almighty in prayer." Bush assigned religion a role in the economy ("There are some needs that prosperity can never meet"), in a possible attack on Iraq ("Liberty is God's gift to every human being in the world"), and in coping with the Columbia space shuttle accident ("Faith assures us that death and suffering are not the final word").

Statements of faith are standard for presidents, and Bush, who found religion in the 1980s after a struggle with excessive drinking, thanked Jesus during the presidential primaries for changing his life. Still, the nation's modern secular leaders have generally been understated in their public expressions of faith, a tone set by Jimmy Carter, a born-again Christian. And Bush, through much of his presidency, has spoken of his faith subtly.

But with war in Iraq looming, and much of the world opposed to his position, the president in recent weeks has adopted a strongly devotional tone. In a series of speeches -- a pair of remembrances for the Columbia victims, last week's National Prayer Breakfast and today's address to the religious broadcasters -- Bush has far more openly embraced Christian theology. Today's speech brought the most thorough linkage yet between Bush's worldly policies and Christian faith -- including a pronouncement that an American attack on Iraq would be "in the highest moral traditions of our country."

On poverty programs, Bush observed that "welfare policy will not solve the deepest problems of the spirit. . . . You don't fix the crack on the wall until you fix the foundation." On justice programs, he said, "building more prisons will not substitute for responsibility and order in our souls. . . . That happens when someone puts an arm around a neighbor and says, 'God loves you, I love you, and you can count on us both.' " Turning to matters overseas, the president said America's enemies "hate the thought [that] . . . we can worship the Almighty God the way we see fit."

Bush advocated vouchers for drug addicts, "especially" for programs of a spiritual nature. He said religious charities should not "compromise their prophetic role." He addressed the faith of the religious broadcasters in the hall. "I am honored to be with so many of you all who have dedicated your lives to sharing the Good News," he said.

The gratitude was mutual. "We pray for you -- in fact, we pray for you daily," Glenn Plummer, the broadcasters' chairman, said in his introduction. "The United States of America has been blessed by God Himself to have George W. Bush as president."

In 1995, the group announced that President Bill Clinton was not invited to its meetings because of his views on abortion and homosexuality. By contrast, many attendees today said Bush was divinely chosen to lead the country during its trials. "At certain times and at certain hours in our country, God has had a certain man to hear his testimony," said Steve Clark, of Faith Baptist Tabernacle in Jamestown, Tenn.

Bush noted that the Christian pianist who performed for the broadcasters, Michael W. Smith, had played at the White House days earlier. During the program, which began with a Bush speech blending into Christian hymns, Karl Rove, Bush's top political aide, worked the crowd.

In recent speeches, Bush has read passages from Isaiah and from the hymn "How Great Thou Art." At last week's prayer breakfast, he said that when he is told by citizens that they are praying for him, he tells them "it is the greatest gift you can give anybody, is to pray on their behalf." Today, Bush thanked his listeners for their prayers, suggesting he would need them in the days ahead. "Let us pray for strength equal to our tasks," he said.

J. Mark Horst, who has a radio ministry in Breezewood, Pa., said faith is what makes Bush propose seemingly unreachable goals and defy odds to reach them. "As Christians, we're commanded to be of strong courage," Horst said. "He's taking what he reads in the Word and saying, 'This is what I believe, and I'm going to go for it.' "

© 2003 The Washington Post Company


January 4, 2003

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory

Bush's Armageddon Obsession, Revisited

by MICHAEL ORTIZ HILL

"We are lived by forces we scarcely understand," wrote W.H. Auden. What forces live us now as America again torques toward war?

George W. Bush is certainly the plaything of such forces as the geopolitics of oil but it seems that he is susceptible to other even darker archetypal concerns. Let me be blunt. The man is delusional and the shape of his delusion is specifically apocalyptic in belief and intent. That Bush would attack so many vital systems on so many fronts from foreign policy to the environment may seem confusing from the point of view of realpolitik but becomes transparent in terms of the apocalyptic worldview to which he subscribes. All systems are supposed to go down so the Messiah can come and Bush, seemingly, has taken on the role of the one who brings this to pass.

The Reverend Billy Graham taught Bush to live in anticipation of the Second Coming but it was his friendship with Dr. Tony Evans that shaped Bush's political understanding of how to deport himself in an apocalyptic era. Dr. Evans, the pastor of a large Dallas church and a founder of the Promise Keepers movement taught Bush about "how the world should be seen from a divine viewpoint," according to Dr. Martin Hawkins, Evans assistant pastor.

S.R. Shearer of Antipas Ministries writes, "Most of the leaders of the Promise Keepers embrace a doctrine of 'end time' (eschatology), known as 'dominionim.' Dominionism pictures the seizure of earthly (temporal) power by the 'people of God' as the only means through which the world can be rescued.... It is the eschatology that Bush has imbibed; an eschatology through which he has gradually (and easily) come to see himself as an agent of God who has been called by him to 'restore the earth to God's control', a 'chosen vessel', so to speak, to bring in the Restoration of All Thingss." Shearer calls this delusion, "Messianic leadership"-- that is to say usurping the role usually ascribed to the Messiah.

In Bush at War Bob Woodward writes, "Most presidents have high hopes. Some have grandiose visions of what they will achieve, and he was firmly in that camp."

"To answer these attacks and rid the world of evil," says Bush. And again, "We will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of this great nation." Grandiose visions. Woodward comments, "The president was casting his mission and that of the country in the grand vision of Gods Master Plan."

In dominionism we can see the theological source of Bush's monomania. Not to be distracted by the fact that he lost the popular election by a half a million votes, that the Joint Chief of Staff at the Pentagon were so concerned about his plans to invade Iraq that they leaked their unanimous objection, that he has systematically alienated much of the world, that roughly seventy percent of Americans remain unconvinced of the imminent threat of Saddam Hussein and the same percentage object to war if there will be significant American casualties--none of this is in the least relevant. He believes his mandate toward action is from God.

As humans we live within stories. Some stories, like apocalypse are thousands of years old. The scriptured text that informs Bush understanding of and enactment of the End of Days (Revelations 19) depicts Christ returning as the Heavenly Avenger. Revelations is the only New Testament book that justifies violence of any kind, and this it takes to the limit: Christ himself the agent of mass murder.

"I saw heaven open and there before me was a white horse who is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war...He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood and his name is the word of God...Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the Nations. And I saw an angel standing in the sun who cried in a low voice to all the birds flying in midair--come gather together for the great supper of God, so you may eat the flesh of kings, generals and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great."

Such is "the glory of the coming of the Lord." Truth, carnage, and the ecstasy of vultures. In a ruined world the Messiah slays the antichrist and creates "a new heaven and a new earth." The dead are judged, the Christians saved and the rest damned to eternal torment. The New Jerusalem is established and the Lord rules it "with an iron scepter."

It is not inconceivable that Bush is literally and determinedly drawn, consciously and unconsciously, toward the enactment of such a scenario, as he believes, for God's sake. Indeed the stark relentlessness of his policy in the Middle East suggests as much.

It dishonors the profundity of the Christian tradition if one doesn't note that Revelations has always been a rogue text. Because of its association with the Montanist heresy (which like contemporary fundamentalists took it to be literal rather than allegorical) it was with great reluctance that it was made scripture three centuries after the death of Christ. Traditionally attributed to St. John, most Biblical scholars now recognize its literary style and its theology has little in common with John's gospel or his epistles and was likely written after his death. Martin Luther found the vindictive God of Revelations incompatible with the gospels and relegated it to the appendix of his German translation of the New Testament instead of the body of scripture. All the Protestant reformers except Calvin regarded apocalyptic millenialism to be heresy.

But Revelations is also a rogue text because it is unmoored from its origins, which are far from Christian. It is a late variant on a story that was pervasive in the ancient world: the defeat of the wild and the uncivilized by a superior order upon which a New World would be established. Two thousand years before Revelations depicted Christ slaying the antichrist and laying out the New Jerusalem, Marduk slayed Tiamat and founded Babylon.

This pagan myth recycled as a suspiciously unchristian Biblical test found new credence in the 19th century when John Darby virtually revived the Montanist heresy of investing it with a passionate literalism. Given to visions (he saw the British as one of the ten tribes of Israel) Darby left the priesthood of the Church of Ireland and preached Revelations as both prophecy and imminent history. In this he inaugurated a lineage in which Bush's mentors, the Reverend Billy Graham and Dr. Tony Evans are recent heirs. Revelations is much beloved by Muslim fundamentalists and like their Christian compatriots they also thrill to redemption through apocalypse. Jewish fundamentalists of course do not believe in Revelations but have nonetheless made common cause with the Christian Right. "It's a very tragic situation in which Christian fundamentalists, certain groups of them that focus on Armageddon and the Rapture and the role of a war between Muslims and Jews in bringing about the Second Coming, are involved in a folie a deux with extremist Jews," said Ian Lustick, the author of For the Land and the Lord: Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel. The Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition (and yes it is a single tradition) is being led by its fringe into the abyss and the rest of us with it.

The world has been readied for the fire but the critical element is the Bush Administration. Never in the history of Christendom has there been a moment when this rogue element has carried anything like the credibility and political power that it carries now.

Michael Ortiz Hill is the author of Dreaming the End of the World (Spring 1994) and, (with Augustine Kandemwa) Gathering in the Names (Spring Journal books, 2002). The companion to this essay, The Looking Glass War, is posted at http://www.gatheringin.com/.


Bush Urges Prayer During 'Testing Time'

Thu Feb 6, 2003

WASHINGTON -AP - President Bush and members of his war council prayed Thursday for God's guidance through "a testing time for our country".

"This is a testing time for our country," Bush said at the 51st annual National Prayer Breakfast, which brings together lawmakers, foreign leaders and spiritual leaders in prayer.

"God teaches us to be resolute in the face of evil using all of the weapons and armor that the word of God supplies," CIA Director George Tenet told the breakfast.

George W. Bush is portrayed in a Talk Magazine interview as ridiculing killer Karla Faye Tucker of Houston for an interview she did with CNN broadcaster Larry King shortly before she was executed.

With pursed lips in mock desperation, [Bush said] ‘Please don’t kill me’, wrote Talk magazine’s conservative columnist Tucker Carlson.

From: Real Bushmen Don't Cry



Religious leaders uneasy with Bush's rhetoric

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

By Ann McFeatters, Post-Gazette National Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Is President Bush using inappropriately religious language as he talks daily about the possibility of war with Iraq?

Some religious leaders say they are becoming uncomfortable with the strongly religious tone of Bush's rhetoric, worried that he is usurping the role of preacher or possibly inciting Islamic fundamentalists with his good-versus-evil references.

In two recent speeches, at the annual convention Monday of the National Religious Broadcasters and at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, Bush said he welcomed faith to solve the nations' deepest problems and was greeted on both occasions with "amens." To some, however, he sounded more like an evangelical Christian minister than an elected political leader.

In discussing a likely war in Iraq with Australian Prime Minister John Howard this week, Bush said freedom for the Iraqi people is not a gift the United States can provide, but instead "liberty is God's gift to every human being in the world." To some, his word's implied that a war against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would be a divinely endorsed act of liberation.

Going beyond religious references even of such presidents as Abraham Lincoln -- who once said he hoped that the nation during the Civil War was on God's side -- Bush told the religious broadcasters this week: "We're being challenged. We're meeting those challenges because of our faith."

The White House defends the president's language as expressions of his personal beliefs and says he has every right to speak with fervor about his faith.

But the Rev. William Gaddy, a Baptist minister who heads the Interfaith Alliance Foundation in Washington, disagrees. "The president of this nation has as his job to promote the common good. It's not his job to promote sectarian beliefs," he said.

Elaine Pagels, of Princeton University's Department of Religion, argues that Bush is betraying the religious diversity of the nation when he speaks of war in absolutist terms. "This is not political discourse," Pagels said. "This is the language of religious zealots, Christian and Muslim. When he speaks of the 'axis of evil,' he is placing those who disagree with him in the realm of evil."

The effect of injecting religion into a debate about war, Pagels said, is to halt discourse and to provoke one's target (in this case, mainly Iraq but also North Korea and Iran) into a shouting match about who is more evil. She said that while she believes it is appropriate to label some acts (such as the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001) as evil, much of the rest of the world is appalled by the way Bush has been branding countries and certain peoples as evil.

Responding to such criticism, Bush said Monday he will increasingly stress that his quarrel is with Saddam Hussein, not the Iraqi civilian population.

Gaddy accuses the president of going beyond acceptable limits of generalizing about religious beliefs, moving instead to active proselytizing. In analyzing the president's rhetoric in the last few years, Gaddy said: "You see a growing feeling he [believes] he is, in fact, a divinely chosen leader in this moment of history. It's as if he discovered the power of religion late in life and thinks the nation needs to [do the same]."

Such groups as the nondenominational National Council of Churches have been expressing uneasiness over Bush's faith-based initiative -- permitting more flexibility with federal funds to expand the ministries of synagogues, mosques and other religious groups to assist the needy. When these groups lobbied Congress to block Bush's proposed law that would allow such flexibility, the president instead issued an executive order forbidding the federal government from discriminating against religious institutions when dispensing funds. But he is still asking Congress to approve it.

After the Columbia shuttle disaster, Bush invoked "the Creator who names the stars" and quoted the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, saying, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens ... ," as a way to comfort the nation.

Religious leaders such as Gaddy do not contest the use of religious references in such a context. But they do fault his citation of his Christian faith in justifying a war.

The White House has countered, though, that the president will continue to use such references because it is how he thinks and because a majority of Americans agree with him.


Peace Movements Show Force in Streets of DC

From Independence Ave, SE, looking back, by Matthew Bradley
As far as the eye could see...

The signifcance of the event became immediately apparent: For perhaps the first time in history, a massive march of people against war was on the loose in the nation's capitol, controlling the streets and showing no signs of stopping. A sea of people stretching more than one mile long and taking up four lanes of roadway marched through the nation's capitol Saturday in vocal and colorful opposition to the U.S. government's drive to war with Iraq. - DC Indymedia

Here's something you won't see in the mainstream "news", photos of the 1/18/03 peace rally in San Francisco:


Published on Sunday, January 26, 2003 by the lndependent/UK
'Ecological Meltdown': Huge Dust Cloud Threatens Asia
by Geoffrey Lean in Washington
 

Gigantic dust clouds swirling over China are threatening the world's most populous country with the first-ever "ecological meltdown", experts here warn.

The clouds – which stretch for thousands of miles over Asia and have even reached across the Pacific to North America – are rising from a rapidly growing dust bowl in northern China that far outstrips the notorious one in the United States in the 1930s.

It threatens to drive up the price of food and greatly increase starvation worldwide, and could lead to tens of millions of desperate Chinese environmental refugees.

"No country has ever faced a potential ecological catastrophe on the scale of the dust bowl now developing in China," says Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, based in Washington. "Merely grasping its dimensions and consequences poses a serious analytical challenge."

Dust storms have been recorded in China for at least 2,700 years, but they are now increasing alarmingly both in size and in number. The Chinese Meteorological Agency says there were just five major storms in the country in the whole of the 1950s. This rose to 23 in the 1990s. But the first two years of this decade have almost equaled this figure already, with 20.

The storms – which peak in late winter and early spring – can blot out daylight in Beijing and other cities, make it hard for millions of people to breathe and destroy hundreds of thousands of acres of crops. They have closed schools and airports in South Korea and Japan, and caused a Korean car factory to shrink-wrap its vehicles as soon as they come off the production line to stop them being spoiled.

They have even occasionally crossed the Pacific: one in April 2001 covered the west of North America from Canada to Arizona with dust.

The clouds sweep up millions of tons of precious topsoil from Chinese fields and pastures. Gone in a single day, the soil will take centuries to replace. But this is just the most dramatic symptom of the accelerating spread of deserts across the country, which is home to nearly one in every four people on the planet.

Between 1994 and 1999, the country's Environmental Protection Agency reports, the Gobi Desert expanded by 20,240 square miles, to within just 150 miles of Beijing, New, smaller, areas of desert are erupting all over the country. In all, this "desertification" is affecting 40 per cent of the country's land. Partly as a result, harvests – which more than quadrupled between 1950 and 1998 – have fallen sharply, even as China's population and appetite grow.

In Ganzu province alone, some 4,000 villages are facing being submerged by drifting sands, and the Earth Policy Institute believes that throughout the country tens of millions of people may be forced off their land, dwarfing the migrations of the "Okies" from the American dust bowl.

The institute blames "over-cultivation, overgrazing, over-cutting and over-pumping" for the escalating catastrophe. Marginal land is being increasingly pressed into cultivation, but quickly turns to dust under the strain. The country's 290 million sheep and goats strip the vegetation off grazing lands. Cutting down forests removes the trees that bind soil to the ground. And excessive pumping of water from underground aquifers dramatically lowers water tables, drying out the earth.

China is belatedly trying to get to grips with the crisis. It is planting 26 million acres – a tenth of its grain-growing area – with trees. But many die because the soil is already too thin; and, say critics, too many are being planted around Beijing so as to try to "green" the city – and clean the air – before the 2008 Olympics.

As the crisis continues, Mr Brown predicts, the world will soon feel the pinch. So far China has compensated for its falling harvests by eating stocks, but soon it will have to buy massive amounts of grain on world markets. He warns: "Grain prices could double – impoverishing more people in a shorter period of time than any event in history. It would create a world food economy dominated by scarcity rather than by surpluses, as has been the case over most of the last half a century."

© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd


Hunter S. Thompson
The godfather of gonzo says 9/11 caused a "nationwide nervous breakdown" -- and let the Bush crowd loot the country and savage American democracy.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By John Glassie, Salon.com

Feb. 3, 2003  |  He calls himself "an elderly dope fiend living out in the wilderness," but Hunter S. Thompson will also be found this week on the New York Times bestseller list with a new memoir, "Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century."

Listening to his ragged voice, there is some sense that Thompson, now 65, has reined in his outlaw ways, gotten a little softer, perhaps a little more gracious now that he's reached retirement age. "I've found you can deal with the system a lot easier if you use their rules," he says. "I talk to a lot of lawyers."

But do not be deceived. In "Kingdom of Fear" and in a telephone interview with Salon from his compound in Aspen, Colo., Thompson did what he's always done: speak the truth about American society as he sees it, without worrying much about decorum. "Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads?" he writes, referring to the people currently occupying the White House. "They are the racists and hate mongers among us -- they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis."

That's his enduring attitude in this new age of darkness: a lot more loathing than fear.

The godfather of gonzo believes America has suffered a "nationwide nervous breakdown" since 9/11, and as a result is compromising civil liberties for what he calls "the illusion of security." The compromise, he says, is "a disaster of unthinkable proportions" and "part of the downward spiral of dumbness" he believes is plaguing the country.

While the country's spinning out of control, Thompson says his own lifestyle has been a model of consistency. He still does whatever the hell he wants. In fact, his new book was supposed to be a "definitive memoir of his life," a long look back by the man who rode with the Hell's Angels, who experienced the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention, and who has smoked more cigarettes, driven more fast cars, fired more weapons and done more drugs than most living people, let alone most living authors. But the book is much more than memoir.

Thompson has long been an outspoken and vigorous champion of civil liberties, at least since a well-publicized 1990 case in which he was charged with sexual and physical assault and possession of illegal drugs -- charges that were ultimately dropped due to an illegal search and seizure.

Of course, the writer has distrusted power all his life, and it may come as no surprise that he now believes the administration is "manufacturing" the Iraqi threat for its own political gain and the economic gain of the "oligarchy" (read: the military-industrial complex).

Perhaps Thompson's most disturbing charge is aimed at the American people -- only half of whom exercise their right to vote. "The oligarchy doesn't need an educated public. And maybe the nation does prefer tyranny," he says. "I think that's what worries me."

In the end, however, Thompson is not and has never been that easy to pigeonhole. He's friends with Pat Buchanan and has a lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association. In


One generation to save world, report warns

Influential body says last chances must be seized

Paul Brown, environment correspondent
Thursday January 9, 2003
The Guardian


The human race has only one or perhaps two generations to rescue itself, according to the 2003 State of the World report by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute.

The longer that no remedial action is taken, the greater the degree of misery and biological impoverishment that humankind must be prepared to accept, the institute says in its 20th annual report.

Overuse of resources, pollution and destruction of natural areas continue to threaten life on the planet. Conditions continue to deteriorate rapidly, the report says, although there are some hopeful signs in that technical solutions to the problems have been found and - where there is political will - adopted. In most cases, though, nothing is being done.

Among the worst trends worldwide is that 420 million people live in countries which no longer have enough crop land to grow their own food and have to rely on imports. Around 1.2 billion people, or about a fifth of the world's population, live in absolute poverty - defined as surviving on the equivalent of less than $1, or 62p, a day.

About one quarter of the developing world's crop land is being degraded, and the rate is increasing. The greatest threat is not a shortage of land, says the report, but a shortage of water, with more than 500 million people living in regions prone to chronic drought.

By 2025 that number is likely to have increased at least fivefold, to between 2.4bn and 3.4bn. A probable world population increase of 27% over the same period will create social and ecological instability.

Global warming is accelerating, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached 370.9 parts per million, the highest level for at least 420,000 years and probably for 20m years.

Toxic chemicals are being released in ever-increasing quantities, and global production of hazardous waste has reached more than 300m tonnes a year. There is only a vague idea of what damage this does to humans and natural systems, the report says.

Another threat is the movement of highly invasive species to regions where they may pose problems to native species.

The state of the world's natural life support system is perhaps the most worrying indicator for the future, says the report. About 30% of the world's surviving forests are seriously fragmented or degraded, and they are being cut down at the rate of 50,000sq miles a year, it says.

Wetlands have been reduced by 50% over the last century. Coral reefs, the world's most diverse aquatic systems, are suffering the effects of overfishing, pollution, epidemic diseases and rising temperatures.

A quarter of the world's mammal species and 12% of the birds are in danger of extinction.

On the hopeful side, the report says that renewable energy technologies have now developed sufficiently to supply the world. They could significantly reduce the threat to the world from pollution - but currently there is a lack of political will to introduce them fast enough.

Another industry which causes widespread destruction, mining for minerals, could be largely replaced by re-use and recycling.

Mining consumes 10% of the world's energy, spews out toxic emissions, and threatens 40% of the world's undeveloped forests but these effects could be drastically reduced.


"An evil exists that threatens every man, woman and child of this great nation," the leader of another country once wrote. "We must take steps to ensure our domestic security and protect our homeland." - Adoph Hitler, writing about creation of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany.

Official logo for the Information Awareness Office:

Wecome to the American Gestapo.

“We are entering a new era of domestic surveillance,” says retired FBI agent Franklin Postel. “One where the constitution is secondary to the cause. The new department has the power to document the day-to-day actions of any American it chooses.”

Some may argue the current terrorist threat requires such drastic measures. But what happens when that threat is met? The Department of Homeland Security and its draconian powers will still exist. Who will determine the new threat? Who will decide who becomes the enemy?

New Monitoring Law Concerns Librarians

The Associated Press, 1/25/03

By DAVID B. CARUSO
A P Writer

A federal law aimed at catching terrorists has raised the hackles of many of the nation's librarians, who say it goes too far by allowing law enforcement agencies to watch what some people are reading.

The USA Patriot Act, passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, gave the FBI new powers to investigate terrorism, including the ability to look at library records and computer hard drives to see what books patrons have checked out, what Web pages they've visited, and where they've sent e-mails.

The Department of Justice says the new powers are needed to identify terrorist cells.

But some librarians, who were meeting in Philadelphia for an American Library Association convention, worry that the FBI has returned to routinely checking on the reading habits of intellectuals, civil rights leaders and other Americans.

Those tactics, common in the 1950s and 1960s, were occasionally used to brand people as Communists.

"Some of this stuff is pretty scary, and we are very concerned that people's privacy is being violated," American Library Association President Maurice J. Freedman said.


Tracking John Poindexter


Activists Take on Ominous Government Project and Its Leader

By Peter Barnes, Tech Live Washington, DC bureau chief
Dec. 23

- Internet activists are turning the tables on John Poindexter, the controversial Pentagon official who is creating a global database surveillance system that could collect massive amounts of private, personal information.

Poindexter, a retired Navy admiral, runs the Information Awareness Office (IAO) at the supersecret Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Poindexter has argued that his proposed surveillance system is needed to fight global terrorism.

But activists have created webpages to invade Poindexter's own privacy, posting his home phone number, his home address, his birthday, information about his family, ways to find his Social Security number, and even a satellite photo of his neighborhood.

One website, BreakYourChains.org, features the John Poindexter Awareness Office. Stephen DeVoy, a computer scientist in Texas, created the site last month.

"I created the website to draw attention to the dangers of the IAO," he said. "I also created the website to make those working for the IAO understand why we find their project offensive. Putting them in a similar situation might send this message home."

DeVoy says his site is getting 2,000 hits a day. Visitors are asked to submit any personal information they obtain on Poindexter, such as where he shops and travels.

One visitor to the website reported seeing Poindexter at a Sharper Image store in a Delaware mall, looking over "various radio and high tech items." Another reported seeing him at a holiday office party. "He always looks pretty shifty," the visitor wrote.

Mary Titus is an Internet activist in New York who created a Web page that satirizes Poindexter and features an "Information Violation Office."

"It's easy to acquire [Poindexter's] own personal information and publicly give that out. And the gauntlet has basically been thrown down," Titus said. "People across the Internet have quickly picked this up."

Admiral on the Run

The campaign already has forced Poindexter to change his home phone number.

Also, since the campaign began, the IAO has stripped its website of its controversial "Knowledge Is Power" logo and Poindexter's biography.

"I think they're getting to him," said Declan McCullagh, a Washington, D.C., reporter and Web writer who is following the story. "I have not seen any other federal bureaucrat targeted with this amount of interest before."


Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan
President of the United States of America, George W. Bush


(Photo by Agence France-Presse)
November 14, 2002

January 4, 2003

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory

Bush's Armageddon Obsession, Revisited

by MICHAEL ORTIZ HILL

"We are lived by forces we scarcely understand," wrote W.H. Auden. What forces live us now as America again torques toward war?

George W. Bush is certainly the plaything of such forces as the geopolitics of oil but it seems that he is susceptible to other even darker archetypal concerns. Let me be blunt. The man is delusional and the shape of his delusion is specifically apocalyptic in belief and intent. That Bush would attack so many vital systems on so many fronts from foreign policy to the environment may seem confusing from the point of view of realpolitik but becomes transparent in terms of the apocalyptic worldview to which he subscribes. All systems are supposed to go down so the Messiah can come and Bush, seemingly, has taken on the role of the one who brings this to pass.

The Reverend Billy Graham taught Bush to live in anticipation of the Second Coming but it was his friendship with Dr. Tony Evans that shaped Bush's political understanding of how to deport himself in an apocalyptic era. Dr. Evans, the pastor of a large Dallas church and a founder of the Promise Keepers movement taught Bush about "how the world should be seen from a divine viewpoint," according to Dr. Martin Hawkins, Evans assistant pastor.

S.R. Shearer of Antipas Ministries writes, "Most of the leaders of the Promise Keepers embrace a doctrine of 'end time' (eschatology), known as 'dominionim.' Dominionism pictures the seizure of earthly (temporal) power by the 'people of God' as the only means through which the world can be rescued.... It is the eschatology that Bush has imbibed; an eschatology through which he has gradually (and easily) come to see himself as an agent of God who has been called by him to 'restore the earth to God's control', a 'chosen vessel', so to speak, to bring in the Restoration of All Thingss." Shearer calls this delusion, "Messianic leadership"-- that is to say usurping the role usually ascribed to the Messiah.

In Bush at War Bob Woodward writes, "Most presidents have high hopes. Some have grandiose visions of what they will achieve, and he was firmly in that camp."

"To answer these attacks and rid the world of evil," says Bush. And again, "We will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of this great nation." Grandiose visions. Woodward comments, "The president was casting his mission and that of the country in the grand vision of Gods Master Plan."

In dominionism we can see the theological source of Bush's monomania. Not to be distracted by the fact that he lost the popular election by a half a million votes, that the Joint Chief of Staff at the Pentagon were so concerned about his plans to invade Iraq that they leaked their unanimous objection, that he has systematically alienated much of the world, that roughly seventy percent of Americans remain unconvinced of the imminent threat of Saddam Hussein and the same percentage object to war if there will be significant American casualties--none of this is in the least relevant. He believes his mandate toward action is from God.

As humans we live within stories. Some stories, like apocalypse are thousands of years old. The scriptured text that informs Bush understanding of and enactment of the End of Days (Revelations 19) depicts Christ returning as the Heavenly Avenger. Revelations is the only New Testament book that justifies violence of any kind, and this it takes to the limit: Christ himself the agent of mass murder.

"I saw heaven open and there before me was a white horse who is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war...He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood and his name is the word of God...Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the Nations. And I saw an angel standing in the sun who cried in a low voice to all the birds flying in midair--come gather together for the great supper of God, so you may eat the flesh of kings, generals and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great."

Such is "the glory of the coming of the Lord." Truth, carnage, and the ecstasy of vultures. In a ruined world the Messiah slays the antichrist and creates "a new heaven and a new earth." The dead are judged, the Christians saved and the rest damned to eternal torment. The New Jerusalem is established and the Lord rules it "with an iron scepter."

It is not inconceivable that Bush is literally and determinedly drawn, consciously and unconsciously, toward the enactment of such a scenario, as he believes, for God's sake. Indeed the stark relentlessness of his policy in the Middle East suggests as much.

It dishonors the profundity of the Christian tradition if one doesn't note that Revelations has always been a rogue text. Because of its association with the Montanist heresy (which like contemporary fundamentalists took it to be literal rather than allegorical) it was with great reluctance that it was made scripture three centuries after the death of Christ. Traditionally attributed to St. John, most Biblical scholars now recognize its literary style and its theology has little in common with John's gospel or his epistles and was likely written after his death. Martin Luther found the vindictive God of Revelations incompatible with the gospels and relegated it to the appendix of his German translation of the New Testament instead of the body of scripture. All the Protestant reformers except Calvin regarded apocalyptic millenialism to be heresy.

But Revelations is also a rogue text because it is unmoored from its origins, which are far from Christian. It is a late variant on a story that was pervasive in the ancient world: the defeat of the wild and the uncivilized by a superior order upon which a New World would be established. Two thousand years before Revelations depicted Christ slaying the antichrist and laying out the New Jerusalem, Marduk slayed Tiamat and founded Babylon.

This pagan myth recycled as a suspiciously unchristian Biblical test found new credence in the 19th century when John Darby virtually revived the Montanist heresy of investing it with a passionate literalism. Given to visions (he saw the British as one of the ten tribes of Israel) Darby left the priesthood of the Church of Ireland and preached Revelations as both prophecy and imminent history. In this he inaugurated a lineage in which Bush's mentors, the Reverend Billy Graham and Dr. Tony Evans are recent heirs. Revelations is much beloved by Muslim fundamentalists and like their Christian compatriots they also thrill to redemption through apocalypse. Jewish fundamentalists of course do not believe in Revelations but have nonetheless made common cause with the Christian Right. "It's a very tragic situation in which Christian fundamentalists, certain groups of them that focus on Armageddon and the Rapture and the role of a war between Muslims and Jews in bringing about the Second Coming, are involved in a folie a deux with extremist Jews," said Ian Lustick, the author of For the Land and the Lord: Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel. The Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition (and yes it is a single tradition) is being led by its fringe into the abyss and the rest of us with it.

The world has been readied for the fire but the critical element is the Bush Administration. Never in the history of Christendom has there been a moment when this rogue element has carried anything like the credibility and political power that it carries now.

Michael Ortiz Hill is the author of Dreaming the End of the World (Spring 1994) and, (with Augustine Kandemwa) Gathering in the Names (Spring Journal books, 2002). The companion to this essay, The Looking Glass War, is posted at http://www.gatheringin.com/.

Cover of the Friday, December 20, 2002 Daily Mirror, UK

Poll: Anti-American Sentiment Building Overseas

Dec. 4, 2002 -- A new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press suggests a significant negative shift in perceptions of the United States among people in 44 nations, including many in the Muslim world.

"Despite an initial outpouring of public sympathy for America following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks," the report reads, "discontent with the United States has grown around the world over the past two years."


A potential war with Iraq, according to the survey results, could further stain America's tarnished image overseas. Again, however, there are contradictions: many acknowledge the threat Iraq poses to peace in the Mideast, yet the majority of those polled were suspicious of America's motives.


George Bush with clown's nose T-shirt gets airing in Brazil

A T-shirt featuring a picture of George W Bush with a clown's nose has been modelled during a Brazilian fashion show. The T-shirt was designed by Brazil's Vide Bula label and was displayed at the Sao Paulo Fashion Week. The company hopes to export between 150,000 and 200,000 garments to the USA during the 2003/2004 winter season. It has up to now, exported about 15,000 to 20,000 to the US market. The company also hopes to conquer the Chilean and Uruguayan markets.

Ananova Thursday 30th January 2003

From Der Spiegel: Last year, when talking with former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, 71, Bush surprisingly asked: 'Do you have blacks too?' The Brazilian president remarked later that Bush was 'still in a learning-phase' when it came to South America." Perhaps Laura can find Bush a children's book on the subject..." one of the Brazilian writers in a Brazilian news paper called it.... A retumbante ignorância . Translated: "A Thundering Ignorance"




From The London Times, January 15, 2003

The United States of America has gone mad



America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press.

The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place; Enron; its shameless favouring of the already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world’s poor, the ecology and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties. They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions.

But bin Laden conveniently swept all that under the carpet. The Bushies are riding high. Now 88 per cent of Americans want the war, we are told. The US defence budget has been raised by another $60 billion to around $360 billion. A splendid new generation of nuclear weapons is in the pipeline, so we can all breathe easy. Quite what war 88 per cent of Americans think they are supporting is a lot less clear. A war for how long, please? At what cost in American lives? At what cost to the American taxpayer’s pocket? At what cost — because most of those 88 per cent are thoroughly decent and humane people — in Iraqi lives?

How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America’s anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre. But the American public is not merely being misled. It is being browbeaten and kept in a state of ignorance and fear. The carefully orchestrated neurosis should carry Bush and his fellow conspirators nicely into the next election.

Those who are not with Mr Bush are against him. Worse, they are with the enemy. Which is odd, because I’m dead against Bush, but I would love to see Saddam’s downfall — just not on Bush’s terms and not by his methods. And not under the banner of such outrageous hypocrisy.

The religious cant that will send American troops into battle is perhaps the most sickening aspect of this surreal war-to-be. Bush has an arm-lock on God. And God has very particular political opinions. God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America’s Middle Eastern policy, and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist.

God also has pretty scary connections. In America, where all men are equal in His sight, if not in one another’s, the Bush family numbers one President, one ex-President, one ex-head of the CIA, the Governor of Florida and the ex-Governor of Texas.

Care for a few pointers? George W. Bush, 1978-84: senior executive, Arbusto Energy/Bush Exploration, an oil company; 1986-90: senior executive of the Harken oil company. Dick Cheney, 1995-2000: chief executive of the Halliburton oil company. Condoleezza Rice, 1991-2000: senior executive with the Chevron oil company, which named an oil tanker after her. And so on. But none of these trifling associations affects the integrity of God’s work.

In 1993, while ex-President George Bush was visiting the ever-democratic Kingdom of Kuwait to receive thanks for liberating them, somebody tried to kill him. The CIA believes that “somebody” was Saddam. Hence Bush Jr’s cry: “That man tried to kill my Daddy.” But it’s still not personal, this war. It’s still necessary. It’s still God’s work. It’s still about bringing freedom and democracy to oppressed Iraqi people.

To be a member of the team you must also believe in Absolute Good and Absolute Evil, and Bush, with a lot of help from his friends, family and God, is there to tell us which is which. What Bush won’t tell us is the truth about why we’re going to war. What is at stake is not an Axis of Evil — but oil, money and people’s lives. Saddam’s misfortune is to sit on the second biggest oilfield in the world. Bush wants it, and who helps him get it will receive a piece of the cake. And who doesn’t, won’t.

If Saddam didn’t have the oil, he could torture his citizens to his heart’s content. Other leaders do it every day — think Saudi Arabia, think Pakistan, think Turkey, think Syria, think Egypt.

Baghdad represents no clear and present danger to its neighbours, and none to the US or Britain. Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, if he’s still got them, will be peanuts by comparison with the stuff Israel or America could hurl at him at five minutes’ notice. What is at stake is not an imminent military or terrorist threat, but the economic imperative of US growth. What is at stake is America’s need to demonstrate its military power to all of us — to Europe and Russia and China, and poor mad little North Korea, as well as the Middle East; to show who rules America at home, and who is to be ruled by America abroad.

The most charitable interpretation of Tony Blair’s part in all this is that he believed that, by riding the tiger, he could steer it. He can’t. Instead, he gave it a phoney legitimacy, and a smooth voice. Now I fear, the same tiger has him penned into a corner, and he can’t get out.

It is utterly laughable that, at a time when Blair has talked himself against the ropes, neither of Britain’s opposition leaders can lay a glove on him. But that’s Britain’s tragedy, as it is America’s: as our Governments spin, lie and lose their credibility, the electorate simply shrugs and looks the other way. Blair’s best chance of personal survival must be that, at the eleventh hour, world protest and an improbably emboldened UN will force Bush to put his gun back in his holster unfired. But what happens when the world’s greatest cowboy rides back into town without a tyrant’s head to wave at the boys?

Blair’s worst chance is that, with or without the UN, he will drag us into a war that, if the will to negotiate energetically had ever been there, could have been avoided; a war that has been no more democratically debated in Britain than it has in America or at the UN. By doing so, Blair will have set back our relations with Europe and the Middle East for decades to come. He will have helped to provoke unforeseeable retaliation, great domestic unrest, and regional chaos in the Middle East. Welcome to the party of the ethical foreign policy.

There is a middle way, but it’s a tough one: Bush dives in without UN approval and Blair stays on the bank. Goodbye to the special relationship.

I cringe when I hear my Prime Minister lend his head prefect’s sophistries to this colonialist adventure. His very real anxieties about terror are shared by all sane men. What he can’t explain is how he reconciles a global assault on al-Qaeda with a territorial assault on Iraq. We are in this war, if it takes place, to secure the fig leaf of our special relationship, to grab our share of the oil pot, and because, after all the public hand-holding in Washington and Camp David, Blair has to show up at the altar.

“But will we win, Daddy?”

“Of course, child. It will all be over while you’re still in bed.”

“Why?”

“Because otherwise Mr Bush’s voters will get terribly impatient and may decide not to vote for him.”

“But will people be killed, Daddy?”

“Nobody you know, darling. Just foreign people.”

“Can I watch it on television?”

“Only if Mr Bush says you can.”

“And afterwards, will everything be normal again? Nobody will do anything horrid any more?”

“Hush child, and go to sleep.”

Last Friday a friend of mine in California drove to his local supermarket with a sticker on his car saying: “Peace is also Patriotic”. It was gone by the time he’d finished shopping.

The author has also contributed to an openDemocracy debate on Iraq at www.openDemocracy.net

Bush Energy Policy Fuels Terrorists

WASHINGTON, DC, September 11, 2002 (ENS) - The Bush Administration must rethink its energy policy if it is to succeed in the war on terrorism, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director James Woolsey said today.

Speaking on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon at the independent energy and environmental research center, Resources for the Future, Woolsey called on the president to reduce U.S. dependence on Middle East oil by:

* encouraging the use of more fuel efficient hybrid cars
*generating ethanol from biomass or waste
*beefing up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to one billion barrels
*increasing Russian oil production by 50 percent

"I have not been pleased with the president's energy policy, to put it mildly," Woolsey said. "I admire President Bush's effort in the fight against terror, but his energy policy goes against what he is trying to accomplish in that war."

Woolsey said people in the Middle East have some justification in thinking the U.S. has but one interest in the region - oil.

"They think we want to use it as a gas station, that we have no interest in the people," Woolsey explained. "They perceive that America is in bed with their own oppressive regimes, and believe our lack of willingness to stand up for human rights in their countries is based on our thirst and appetite for oil."

Woolsey said oil wealth in the Middle East was also fueling terrorism.

"They understand the leverage they hold has a lot to do with our own behavior, and we must start to understand that as well," he said.

Critical of both the Administration and Congress for rejecting plans to tighten fuel economy standards, Woolsey said the move to highly fuel efficient hybrid cars must be encouraged.

Full video coverage of Woolsey's talk is available here.