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More than 1000 business leaders, political figures and opinion leaders attended the regional World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea in Jordan over the weekend. Representing the U.S. were Laura Bush, Elizabeth Cheney, and the State Department's number two, Robert Zoellick. The message: from now on U.S. efforts to reshape the Middle East are likely to bypass traditional U.S. embassies and State Department experts, and instead to come directly from the White House.
Priscilla Owen may trigger the Republican Party's "nuclear option." Critics charge that personal beliefs take precedence over the law in some of her decisions.
AND NOW FOR ACTIVIST JUDGES ON THE RIGHT
The American Progress notes: For all the conservative talk against judicial activism, Frist and other conservatives should know that Owen has a long record of extremist decisions; her own hometown paper described her as "all too willing to bend the law to fit her views, rather than the reverse." In fact, in reference to one of Owen's dissents, then colleague and fellow Texas Supreme Court Justice Alberto Gonzales went so far as to describe the decision's proposed interpretation of the law as "an unconscionable act of judicial activism." Indeed, in critiquing her nomination, The Houston Chronicle took issue not with her being "too conservative" but with the fact that "she too often contorts rulings to conform to her particular conservative outlook." As the San Antonio Express stated, "The senate should not block a judicial nominee simply because he or she is more conservative or more liberal than the Senate's majority party.… But concerns about Owen go to the heart of what makes a good judge."(American Progress, May 21, 2005)
-Owens in Houston Chronicle
RESHAPING THE MIDDLE EAST IN THE WHITE HOUSE'S IMAGE
In a speech at the World Economic Forum, Deputy U.S. Secretary of State,Robert Zoellick made it clear that the US government intends to fundamentally transform the way it deals with the Middle East, introducing an interventionist foreign policy that focuses on political and economic reform... The new policy will replace traditional diplomacy conducted through US embassies with pressure to adopt the Bush administration's ideas on free trade and democracy. (Sidney Morning Herald, May 21, 2005)
-ROBERT ZOELLICK'S SPEECH AT THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM
-Analysis in the Washington Post.
RAMI KHOURI ON THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM, KING ABDULLAH OF JORDAN AND ARAB HOPES FOR DEMOCRACY
When Jordan's King Abdullah II closed the three-day World Economic Forum on Sunday at a new convention center along the Dead Sea coast, he urged regional leaders to respond to popular demand for economic and political reforms, saying: "People want to move forward, they want meaningful reform, they want to see a tangible difference in their lives."What he did not say, but seems to have felt, as evidenced by his words and some recent actions, was that ordinary Arab people also wanted their leaders to match their rhetoric with action.(Rami Khouri, Bierut Daily Star, May 25, 2005)
SYRIA ABRUPTLY ENDS COOPERATION WITH U.S. AGAINST TERRORISM, AND BEGINS CRACKS DOWN ON DISSIDENTS The Syrian government has begun what seems a sweeping crack down on civil society leaders and opposition members. This is coordinated with cutting off CIA and intelligence cooperation with the United States.
(Joshua Landis, SyriaComment.com, May 24, 2005)
U.S. UPSET AT ISRAEL'S PLANS TO UPGRADE CHINESE ATTACK DRONES
The dispute is over Israel's desire to upgrade the Harpy assault drone that China bought in the mid-1990s. The drones are capable of destroying radar stations and anti-aircraft batteries; the U.S. fears that they could upset the delicate strategic balance between China and Taiwan...What was initially described as "repairing" later turned out to be "upgrading." Citing a breach of trust and incomplete disclosure, the U.S. reacted strongly. Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan visited Israel in December and invited Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to visit Beijing....(Dr. P.R. Kumaraswamy, PINR, May 23, 2005)
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL'S ANNUAL REPORT COUNTS HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE IN THE U.S. AND ELSEWHERE
Looking at the U.S., the report notes: The blatant disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law in the “war on terror” continued to make a mockery of President George Bush’s claims that the USA was the global champion of human rights. Images of detainees in US custody tortured in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq shocked the world. War crimes in Iraq, and mounting evidence of the torture and ill-treatment of detainees in US custody in other countries, sent an unequivocal message to the world that human rights may be sacrificed ostensibly in the name of security.( Amnesty International, May 25, 2005)
$3.6 BILLION BAKU-CEYHAN PIPELINE BYPASSES RUSSIA TO TRAVERSE VOLATILE CAUCUSES
The project will eventually carry a million barrels of oil a day from the Caspian to Turkish port of Ceyhan. Just filling the pipeline itself requires 10 million barrels and will take several months. Until now, Caspian oil had to transit via pipelines in Russia. (BBC, May 25, 2005)
-Baku-Ceyhan campaign page provides background, including USAID report
-Economist Intelligence Unit on the pipeline and making an end run around Russia
The dramatic impact of the establishment of a non-Russian route is multiplied by the fact that the pipeline will allow Caspian crude to be loaded directly on to supertankers. At present, this is not possible for any CIS oil producer: either the ports serving Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan cannot accommodate such large vessels, or else physical restrictions—such as the Bosphorus and Dardanelles—prevent the use of very large crude carriers. The possibility of using supertankers offers BTC's customers economies of scale that make it possible to deliver crude to markets beyond Europe and north Africa, in particular the US. Penetration of that market is a long-held Russian dream, but it appears that Azerbaijan and maybe Kazakhstan too will get there first. It is worth noting, however, that the volumes will not be sufficient to reduce significantly the US's dependence on the Middle East. (EIU Viewswire, May 24, 2005)
KAZAKHSTAN FIGURES IN EFFORTS TO STEM CORRUPTION BY U.S. COMPANIES
Kazakhstan was placed in the spotlight six years ago by the emergence of the "Kazakhgate" scandal alleging that a U.S. citizen funneled millions in oil-concession fees to Kazakh officials. Now, a new investigation of leading oil-and-gas-services provider Baker Hughes serves as the latest example of authorities’ increased efforts to stem corruption by U.S. companies operating overseas. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission -- the government agency overseeing financial and legal compliance of American companies -- on April 22 subpoenaed Baker Hughes seeking information about the Houston-based company’s operations in Kazakhstan. (Eurasianet.org, May 23, 2005)
UZBEKISTAN: BACKGROUND ON ANDIJON UPRISING
Giving the regime's preference for acting tough and suppressing any and all opposition,in the past, the bloody repression is hardly surprising. (ICG, May 25, 2005)
ENDING THE WAR IN IRAQ BY OUTMANEUVERING THE PROPONENTS OF WAR
The strategy adopted by the Vietnam anti-war movement in the late 1960s was to demand unilateral withdrawal and to mount mass demonstrations to demonstrate public opposition to the war. In retrospect that approach can be seen as a strategic error that allowed the Nixon administration to prolong the war for four more years. The error lay in the failure to focus on developing a proposal for the negotiated withdrawal of U.S. troops under a peace settlement at a time when it could have been an effective form of pressure on Nixon. Advancing such a plan for peace negotiations now would avoid a battle over unilateral withdrawal that the anti-war forces are unlikely to win. (Gareth Porter, FPIF, April 4, 2005)
PADDING THE DEFENSE BUDGET
The bill that the Senate passed on April 21 was crammed with essential war-fighting treasures like $500,000 to study wind energy in North and South Dakota, $20 million for a fish hatchery in Fort Peck, Mont., $26 million to move nuclear materials out of New Mexico into Nevada, and $4 million for West Virginia’s Upper Tygart Watershed Project.But the bill was not routine. It signaled the Senate’s descent to new depths, for these measures were not added to the annual defense authorizations and appropriations bills, but to a so-called emergency supplemental. Worse, some of these irrelevant items actually were included at the expense of legitimate military operational needs. (Winslow T. Wheeler, CDI.ord, May 24, 2005)
DARWIN, CREATIONISM AND BAD SCIENCE
If you are in ninth grade and live in Dover, Pennsylvania, you are learning things in your biology class that differ considerably from what your peers just a few miles away are learning. In particular, you are learning that Darwin’s theory of evolution provides just one possible explanation to life, and that another is provided by something called intelligent design. You are being taught this not because of a recent breakthrough in some scientist’ laboratory but because the Dover Area School District’s board mandates it. (H.Allen Orr, New Yorker, May 23, 2005)
EXXON JOINS DOOMSTERS PREDICTING OIL DROP OFF IN FIVE YEARS
Without any press conferences, grand announcements, or hyperbolic advertising campaigns, the Exxon Mobil Corporation, one of the world's largest publicly owned petroleum companies, has quietly joined the ranks of those who are predicting an impending plateau in non-OPEC oil production. Their report, The Outlook for Energy: A 2030 View, forecasts a peak in just five years.(Alfred J. Cavallo, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May-June, 2005)
Exxon Report: energy outlook to 2030
British tabloids had a field day when photographs of Saddam in his skivvies sitting on the toilet were allegedly leaked to the populist Sun by a "senior American official."
FROM ABROAD: FAILED PSYWAR ATTEMPTS AND STORIES ABOUT TORTURE RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT U.S. VALUES
The British tabloid, The Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch, had a hearty laugh at President Bush's efforts at damage control following bumbling efforts to humiliate Saddam by distributing embarrassing photos of the imprisoned dictator. But reports of the allegedly wanton torture and murder of an innocent Afghan youth by sadistic U.S. military personnel who were subsequently reassigned to Iraq (included in a 2,000-page report referred to by the New York Times over the weekend)raises a more serious question: with few checks and balances left in a radical-right Republican administration, is the American public now ready to accept torture and murder as legitimate expressions of American power? If not, why are the media and the public at large being quiet about the well documented abuses which are now proliferating on too large a scale to be dismissed as the aberrations of a few bad apples. Hendryk Hertzberg raises the question in a New Yorker Talk of the Town piece which questions why Newsweek has taken so much heat for its Koran mishap, while hardly anyone questions the burgeoning torrent of violations of international law and the Geneva Convention. A growing number of Europeans now see the United States as a threat to world peace. The New York Times notes that in the eyes of many foreigners, Guantanamo has begun to symbolize American values.
While the president speaks often about freedom and democracy, what many foreigners see is torture, murder and a disrespect for the rule of law. The U.S. Administration's credibility is at such a low ebb that anything the White House says these days is almost automatically discounted, even if it is true. And that goes for the media supporting the administration. At a discussion on press freedom and autonomy at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, a Middle Eastern media executive exploded,"What we definitely do not want is Fox News." A Middle Eastern venture capitalist, pondering the placement of roughly $1 trillion which the Gulf states invest abroad, explained that the reason he is shifting his investments away from the U.S. and towards China, is that he wants to be on the side of the people who are going to run the future. Anger at the U.S. is now palpable overseas. The inevitable question is: what are the American people getting from the White House's new strategy which much of the world functioning outside the traditional perception of international law?
--The New Yorker on Newsweek's gaffe versus the larger issue of U.S. abuse and torture
--The New York Times reports on Guantanamo as the new image of the U.S. abroad.
--The Guardian on the transfer to Abu Ghraib prison of U.S. officers being investigated for abuse in Afghanistan
THE NEW YORK TIMES ON THE ALLEGED U.S. TORTURE AND MURDER OF A YOUTH IN AFGHANISTAN
The NYT's Tim Golden writes: "Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.
"The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.
"Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.
"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"
"At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.
"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.(Tim Golden, New York Times, May 20, 2005)
"CAGED PRISONERS" TALKS ABOUT U.S. TREATMENT
INDEX OF RECENT TORTURE DOCUMENTS AND ABUSES AGAINST FAITH
(including an FBI detainee interview stating that a guard had flushed a Koran down the toilet--3878-3881/September 1, 2002)
[Photocopies of all recent documents are available by clicking on links at top of the ACLU- FOIA page]
THE NATION LISTS STORIES ON KORAN ABUSE
L.A. TIMES ON KORAN INCIDENTS