The Likud has gone crazy, and Israel with it
Sunday, November 21, 2004, 02:09
The Middle East, and the rest of the world for that matter, is no stranger to corruption in politics, or to thugs as rulers.

But according to Gideon Samet in Haaretz, “there has never been a ruling party that survived after people associated with organized crime had penetrated its central bodies.”

And that’s Likud, Israel’s ruling party, which receives a majority in the surveys but opposes the opinion of the majority which is ready for concessions in return for peace. Likud is furthermore “the first ruling party whose members demand legislation that stipulates – like the Roman emperor Caligula, who appointed a horse to the Senate – that people who are clearly unsuitable be allowed to join public directorates.”

How could Israel come to this? And how could the leader of the party have come to this? It’s because it is he himself “who for years accustomed the party to undermine its leader” … “and in his lifetime, bequeathed to it the values of settlement on every hilltop in Greater Israel.”

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From fundamentalism to narco-economics
Friday, November 19, 2004, 00:50
Is Afghanistan now free or just liberal? “This year, Afghanistan has established a double record – the highest drug cultivation in the country’s history, and the largest in the world.” This is from the news briefing given by the director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Opium, from which heroin is made, is being grown in every one of Afghanistan’s 32 provinces, employing 10% of its population, and accounting for more than 60% of its economy – and 87% of the world’s heroin production.

But maybe the UN worries too much; after all, Hamid Karzai has vowed to eradicate it, and we all know how much of Afghanistan he really controls.

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Sharon planned coup in Israel
Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 18:46
George Bush’s man of peace is apparently not averse to military coups, as The Daily Telegraph reports today. In 1967, Ariel Sharon admitted he couldn’t wait to attack Egypt, and considered staging a coup d’état had Levi Eshkol’s government not been aggressive enough. This was an option Yitzhak Rabin did not rule out either.

When Eshkol obliged and declared war on Egypt and Syria on June 5 1967, and Israel illegally invaded the Sinai, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem (all of which are still under Israeli occupation, apart from Sinai), Sharon was satisfied.

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Think of Bush and Blair when you fill up the tank
Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 18:36
OPEC’s current output is over 30 millions barrels a day, the highest since the late seventies, a level which implies that oil supply exceeds anticipated consumption. Therefore, current oil supply would logically be more than enough to drive oil prices down, right?

But oil prices are high, and according to this article in the International Herald Tribune, “if you want to pick a culprit, blame the occupation of Iraq.”

The authors explain how “the confrontational US position vis-à-vis Iran and the carte blanche given by George W. Bush to Ariel Sharon have further heightened Mideast tensions and bolstered a fear of new attacks against energy-related targets throughout the region and beyond.” These factors, more than other transitory causes, are directly or indirectly sustaining high oil prices.

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Media agenda or misleading the public?
Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 03:43
This is without any doubt one of the sloppiest, most infuriating and most misleading pieces of journalism I have seen for a while, not even fit for an opinion page.

“Reporting” from Baghdad about reactions to the NBC footage the whole world is talking about, Associated Press writer Robert H. Reid had the following to say: “The fatal shooting of a wounded and apparently unarmed man in a Fallujah mosque by a U.S. Marine angered Sunni Muslims in Iraq.”

Sunni Muslims? What about others? This is what Reid reports: “It was unclear to what extent other Iraqis, particularly the majority Shiite Muslims, cared about the shooting.”

Unbelievable! Did he do a survey? One would have thought anyone would have been shocked and pained beyond description by these pictures, in Iraq and elsewhere.

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Felber for President
Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 00:05
"I concede that I overstimated the intelligence of the American people."

So begins Adam Felber's hilarious concession speech, which he imagines making after losing to Bush. A fantastic blog entry to be read for a good time - if you're from one of the blue states, that is. Red states might want to abstain!

(Thanks for the tip Muki!)

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Like father, like son in Libya
Tuesday, November 16, 2004, 20:36
Did you know that “if the sun lost its gravity, its gasses would explode and its unity would no longer exist?” And did you know that “it is an undisputed fact that both man and woman are human beings,” but that “as man does not get pregnant, he is not liable to the conditions which women, being female, suffer?”

If you never really understood the point of Muammar Qadhafi’s pearls of wisdom or anything else in his Green Book, you will probably not understand what his son is saying either. But if, like the US and the UK, you believe that the “government” he leads will flourish into a wonderful, free, humane and logical institution after having turned its back (officially) on terrorism and WMDs (which, in Libya’s case, are weapons of minor distraction), then you are urged to read the interview his son, Saif Al Islam Qadhafi, gave to the BBC, of which here are a few examples:

On leadership: “The leader you cannot change. You can change everything except the leader because he is a leader.”

On democracy: “I can't survive with a direct democracy. You cannot have a direct democracy and a military regime at the same time. They are against each other.”

On Libya: “The new Libya is black, because we are African now and we are Mediterranean at the same time.”

George Bush and Tony Blair must be so proud of their newly-found protégé, and of the brilliant example he provides for other democratically-challenged countries.

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How widespread are executions of unarmed Iraqis?
Tuesday, November 16, 2004, 19:39
An NBC news crew captured on camera a marine shooting an unarmed, wounded Iraqi in Fallujah. This was a close-range execution of a wounded prisoner left in a destroyed mosque after Americans ravaged the city. The marine shouted “he's fucking faking he's dead” before killing his victim.

The incident played and replayed on all channels since yesterday is even more alarming than one would imagine when taken at face value. This is what we should ask ourselves: if this is how marines act when journalists are around (embedded ones at that), what exactly are they doing when the media cannot record their actions?

And how exactly does that make the Anglo-American occupation forces any different from the terrorists - including those who have apparently murdered British aid worker Margaret Hassan - they claim to be eradicating?

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Israel approves Rice nomination to State
Tuesday, November 16, 2004, 19:13
What a ringing endorsement. As far as Israel is concerned, no news in American attitude towards the Middle East is good news. Of course it is. In fact, the strategic ties between Israel and the United States have never been stronger.

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Who are the Americans really fighting in Fallujah?
Tuesday, November 16, 2004, 18:59
The truth comes out in little bits, but American officials have been saying it: the vast majority of insurgents are Iraqi.

“Despite an intense focus on the network of Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab Zarqawi by U.S. and Iraqi officials, who have insisted that most Iraqis support the country's interim government, American commanders said their best estimates of the proportion of foreigners among their enemies is about 5%.”

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Neocon purge at the White House
Tuesday, November 16, 2004, 18:56
Those who expressed pessimism and even despair at the election of George Bush for a second term, fearing its impact on the international arena, were told that Bush would now be conciliatory and reach out to the world. We tried hard not to snicker in polite company.

Today, it’s about just as bad as anyone could have foreseen: “average” republicans out, extreme neocons in. Powell out, Burns out, Abraham and others out. Rice in, Pletka in, Abrams and others in, consolidating the jolly gang of Wolfowitz, Bolton, Feith and company who remain glued to their chairs before further promotions.

Bush might as well have appointed a Likud member to the top diplomacy posts in the US. But then again, maybe he already has. I’ve already mentioned Pletka’s neocon credentials; Elliot Abrams (assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration, involved in the notorious policies in Latin America and the Iran Contra affair) certainly takes no second place to other Likudniks.

Robert Scheer tells it like it is in the LA Times today, in a piece entitled
The Peter Principle and the Neocon Coup:

“Meanwhile, incompetence begat by ideological blindness has been rewarded. The neoconservatives who created the ongoing Iraq mess have more than survived the failure of their impossibly rosy scenarios for a peaceful and democratic Iraq under U.S. rule. In fact, despite calls for their resignations — from the former head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Anthony Zinni, among others — the neocon gang is thriving. They have not been held responsible for the "16 words" about yellowcake, the rise and fall of Ahmad Chalabi, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the post-invasion looting of Iraq's munitions stores and the disastrous elimination of the Iraqi armed forces.”

The Washington Post quotes other reactions to this rollercoaster of appointments and calls it The Triumph of the Hawks.

Read’ em and weep.

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The world according to Blair
Tuesday, November 16, 2004, 17:24
In 2002, Robert Cooper – a Blair aide - published a pamphlet calling for "a new kind of imperialism" which would allow Britain to intervene abroad, stressing that “the need for colonization is as great as it ever was in the 19th century.”

But Tony Blair would rather do this with the blessing of the United Nations, and is now calling on Kofi Annan to oblige, by including in the reforms which the latter will unveil in a few weeks “a greater role of leadership for the UN on the responsibility of states to protect, not injure, their own citizens.”

Blair also saw it fit, during the Lord Mayor’s banquet, to act as George Bush’s personal PR agent, asking domestic and foreign critics alike not to ridicule America’s arguments or parody Bush! As an afterthought, he also advised the US to become less unilateralist – which it wouldn’t need to be, of course, if the UN was reshaped to legally acquiesce its needs.

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State Department going from bad to outright neocon
Tuesday, November 16, 2004, 04:11
Only hours after Colin Powell’s resignation, and my assumption (earlier in the blog) that Condi Rice would succeed him at the State Department, even scarier rumours seem to be spreading like wild-fire. So how about a nomination that would make Richard Perle proud?

“Neo-conservatives are currently promoting Perle protégée Danielle Pletka, a vice-president of American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and outspoken and unapologetic supporter of the Likud-led government in Israel, for the post of assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs to replace career diplomat William Burns when he moves on early next year.”

All one can hope for is that the Bush administration refrains, henceforth, from referring to its peaceful designs for the Middle East, and for a “viable Palestinian state.” They should just come out and say out loud what they are thinking and planning – at least nobody would then blame them for not trying hard enough.

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Sistani silent on Fallujah, as he had at first been on Najaf
Tuesday, November 16, 2004, 03:49
During the last heavy American assault on Najaf last August, Muslim clerics of both denominations raised hell and issued warnings and declarations to demand the immediate cessation of hostilities. At the time, as luck would have it, the most prominent Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, had gone to London (of all places) for what his aides said was heart surgery. He only intervened when it was practically all over, after previously only issued a mild statement hoping for restraint from all sides.

It is common knowledge that Muqtada Sadr is far from being a Sistani favorite; the old man finds the young cleric irritating, to say the least. In fact, many analysts, myself included, saw in this eleventh-hour Najaf intervention an attempt to save not Sadr, but to save Sistani himself – after he had begun to hear the voices of criticism, and to fear the increased popularity of Sadr and his followers.

I had been wondering whether Sistani would finally speak up about the violent assault on Fallujah, but waited in vain. Only by googling the issue did I discover that others are also wondering about his silence.

For the moment, Muqtada Sadr has threatened to boycott the elections (something the Americans and Allawi would surely love) as a result of the Fallujah attack, and a number of other clerics, including a high ranking Sunni one, have begun to openly criticize Sistani’s circle for its silence.

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Blair's Vietnam?
Tuesday, November 16, 2004, 03:11
Like most Britons, Max Hastings is not impressed with Tony Blair’s soppy appearance in Liverpool this weekend to participate in a memorial for Ken Bigley, the Briton murdered in Iraq recently.

In The Guardian today, Hastings explains that public dismay and anger is growing in Britain and spreading across all parties:

“Retired colonels and home counties matrons, usually counted on to stand foursquare behind our boys on the battlefield, regard what is happening as Bush's private folly. They admire our boys as much as ever, but they are as disgusted by the British national role, harnessed haplessly to Washington's chariot wheels, as any Labour backbencher.”

I do not believe Blair fears losing the elections, if only because the alternative is so much more depressing. However, his party majority can take a hit if enough people make a point of it.

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New term, new team, same old
Tuesday, November 16, 2004, 02:50
How significant that George Bush and Tony Blair should have been meeting on the day when the Middle East they have tampered with so unwisely was exploding – Palestine, with emotion, grief and uncertainty; Iraq with bombs and gun shots.

The press conference both gave on Friday was frustrating to no end, and Bush even seemed to be laughing when he said he was the first American president to have mentioned a Palestinian state. After all the media hype about the “opportunities” after Yasser Arafat’s demise, neither Bush nor Blair were able to promise anything significant; no conference, no special envoy. Of course, none are needed, as the recipe for peace already exists in UN resolutions.

More gloomingly, Colin Powell’s resignation should probably prepare us for a secretary of state who has closer relations with the neocon elements in the Bush administration; then again, Powell was neither really a dove, nor an influential official, so no big loss there. But if it really is Condi Rice, then at least we know what we’re in for.

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Brief history lesson on Iraq
Monday, November 15, 2004, 22:18
As always, Rashid Khalidi has great things to say about the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, and the reasons why it has gone terribly wrong – as predicted by so many. A very interesting read, especially for those who have little background knowledge about the region, or who still think this is all about democracy. For instance, " The United States claims to be acting in favor of democracy, yet embraces Qaddhafi! People in the Middle East notice this gap between word and deed—even if Americans don’t notice the things being done in our name."

Khalidi summarizes how people of the region might object to foreign occupation: "By invading, occupying and imposing a new regime on Iraq, the United States may be following, intentionally or not, in the footsteps of the old Western colonial powers—and doing so in a region that within living memory ended a lengthy struggle to expel colonial occupations. They fought from 1830 to 1962 to kick out the French from Algeria. From 1882 to 1956 they fought to get the British out of Egypt. That’s within the lifetime of every person over 45 in the Middle East. Foreign troops on their soil against their will is deeply familiar."

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Palestinian grief and Israeli glee
Friday, November 12, 2004, 03:34
It may seem strange that a critic of Arafat like myself (but certainly not for the reasons marketed by Israel and the US) should be irritated by the reactions to his death, but I have taken issue with many of the questions asked, since Arafat’s life was known to be in danger, and today in a number of interviews I have given, and in questions asked of other commentators. For the most part, they were superficial and paid lip service to the Israeli and American position, whether or not intentionally.

Bush and Sharon have been as blunt and as insulting as they could be, not even giving Palestinians the basic courtesy of respecting their loss. Now that Arafat is dead, peace can be pursued, goes the duo’s refrain, thus pretending he was the impediment to peace, and that Israel is a victim.

As if Arafat were to blame for the violent military Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, the creeping annexation of land with the wall built beyond the 1967 borders, the encroached settlements, and the categorical Israeli refusal that millions of Palestinians exercise their right of return – a right granted by international law, and specifically under UN Security Council resolution 194.

As if the “missed opportunity” of 2000, which Clinton and Barak tried so hard to push on Arafat, could have been accepted by any Palestinian, as it imposed the surrender of most human and national rights, and imposed the acceptance of a mini-state that was neither contiguous, sovereign, or even truly a state.

As if the former militant (vilified as a terrorist by the same terrorists who established the state of Israel with far more brutal methods against the British and the indigenous Palestinian population) could become a head of state without having a state to begin with. As if those who (rightly) accused him of spreading corruption were not even more corrupt themselves, beginning with Sharon, his sons, and his clique.

And as if Israel would renounce its continuous, blatant violations of international law the minute Arafat was out of the way. Let’s see what excuse it will come up with now.

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“Watching tragedy engulf my city”
Wednesday, November 10, 2004, 14:58
A journalist in Fallujah briefly describes the devastation in his city, comparing it to Kabul. He cannot assess the number of casualties, but says that “many Iraqis from other cities have been joining the local men against the Americans.” He goes on:

“A medical dispensary in the city centre was bombed earlier. I don't know what has happened to the doctors and patients who were there. It was last place you could get medical attention because the big hospital on the outskirts of Falluja was captured by the Americans on Monday.

For the first time in Falluja, a city of 150 mosques, I did not hear a single call to prayer this morning. I broke my Ramadan fast yesterday with the last of our food - two potatoes and two tomatoes. The tomatoes were rotten because we have no electricity to run the fridge.”

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Duck, run, and don’t blame the US
Wednesday, November 10, 2004, 14:28
Even though he predicts that there aren’t going to be large numbers of civilians killed there, Donald Rumsfeld has still made it crystal clear that he will not take responsibility for any who do get killed, in small or large numbers. After all, they’ve been warned, as Rumsfeld informed is at the Pentagon: “Innocent civilians in that city have all the guidance they need as to how they can avoid getting into trouble.”

Of course. They can duck, hide underground, and pray for the best. Or they can leave Fallujah, that is if they have the financial and physical capacity to do so. But in case something does happen to them, rest assured that it’s not his fault, and Bush will proclaim him the best defense secretary ever … again.

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Explaining – if need be – Fallujah’s defiance
Wednesday, November 10, 2004, 12:43
Those who still think violence came to Fallujah out of the blue moon should read Sami Ramadani’s op-ed in The Guardian today, which gives a good summary of Fallujah’s recent history, and points out that Bush and Blair, fearing elections, would “accept nothing short than the legitimization of an Allawi-style puppet regime.”

More importantly, Ramadani explains Fallujah’s history of resistance to Saddam Hussein, and its dissociation from terrorists:

“Without a shred of evidence, Bush, Blair and Ayad Allawi's quisling regime shamelessly declare that they are only pursuing the Jordanian kidnapper Zarqawi and other "foreign terrorists". The people of Falluja, their leaders, negotiators and resistance fighters have always denounced Zarqawi and argued that such gangs have been encouraged to undermine the resistance.”

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Fateful night of destiny in Iraq
Wednesday, November 10, 2004, 04:31
For Muslims, the "night of destiny" is a blessed and highly significant date, as they believe that Archangel Gabriel began to reveal the Koran to Prophet Muhammad on that night, assumed to fall between the 26th and the 27th of the holy month of Ramadan. This year, it falls between November 9 and 10.

For many Muslims around the world, this particular night will have been remembered as a night when fellow Muslims were under attack, and when Iraqis were bearing the brunt of a violent assault on the city of Fallujah.

This is certainly not the first Ramadan during which wars have been waged; in 2001, the bombing of Afghanistan continued during Ramadan, for instance, Rumsfeld having argued with his usual eloquence and erudition that Muslims had fought during that month before. Naturally, Israel has also never shied from its usual assaults and bombings on such occasions.

This is not to say that the US government does not understand the significance of these actions. In December 1998, a few days before the beginning of Ramadan (and “coincidentally” on the eve of his impeachment vote), President Clinton had launched Operation Desert Fox, which sent 650 air sorties and 400 cruise missile strikes over Iraq, resulting in numerous casualties. However, Clinton justified the timing of the strikes by saying it would have been “offensive to the Muslim world to initiate military action during Ramadan.”

Clearly, the current American and British governments have no such qualms, and don’t even bother with the pretense of being politically - or religiously - correct. By launching a full-scale assault on Fallujah during the last few days of Ramadan, they have ensured what Bill Clinton thought he could avoid. Being illegally invaded, occupied, and attacked is unacceptable under any circumstance, of course, but Bush and Blair – as the self-proclaimed liberators of Iraq - should have known better than to resort to such violence during a holy period.

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“US shooting horses to scare flies in Iraq”
Wednesday, November 10, 2004, 03:33
The American and British governments may have gotten a number of other governments to support their invasion and occupation of Iraq, but it is apparent that more and more people around the world are not on the same wavelength with their respective leaders. For instance, a Japanese writer has compared the assault on Fallujah to the allied bombing of Japan during the Second World War (when his country had been the initial aggressor):

“I understand that 500-pound bombs have been dropped on Fallujah. The news reminded me of the 500 pounders dropped from B-29s in the Pacific War. One major difference between Americans and Japanese is the latter know what it is like to be on the receiving end of an air attack.”

Not to mention a couple of atomic bombs!

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Arafat's jail turns into his grave
Wednesday, November 10, 2004, 02:02
It is truly a pity that Israel has decided to maintain its typical arrogance even as the Palestinian people’s leader is on his death bed. It has refused to allow for Yasser Arafat’s burial in Jerusalem, a city which Tommy Lapid, the Israeli Justice Minister, racistly described as “a city where Jewish kings are buried and not Arab terrorists” – forgetting of course that many Israeli terrorists have already been buried there.

By sticking to this stance, Israel is insulting not Arafat, but the Palestinian people – nearly all 10 million of them, inside the occupied territories and in exile. This is not about honoring the will of the dying man, but rather about honoring the will of the Palestinian people who would have wanted the first leader of a makeshift Palestinian government to be given this courtesy, in a gesture that would have cost Israel absolutely nothing.

Palestinian officials have already publicly given in to this diktat, having announced today that Arafat would be buried in his battered compound of Ramallah.

While they have decided to avoid fueling Palestinian anger and passion for the moment, they have undoubtedly created an even more significant shrine for Arafat. When they see his grave in the years to come, Palestinians will always remember the occupier’s meaningless intransigence, and remember that Arafat was forced to this British-made grave in life and in death. Few international leaders (let alone Arabs) will be able to come pay their respects and offer their condolences (whether in Ramallah or in Jerusalem for Arabs) to the Palestinians.

This will all remain engraved for years in the collective memory of an occupied people, who will have even more reason to resent Israel.

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Fallujah under attack
Monday, November 8, 2004, 23:54
It is difficult for most of us, thankfully, to imagine what it is to live under siege, assault and indiscriminate bombing. Fallujah, like other cities before it (Beirut, Jenin, Gaza to name but a few) is about to have the renewed misfortune of reliving this nightmare. Officially, Allawi is to thank for that, having given his "authority" today to the "multinational forces" to re-establish government control and prepare for the" elections."

Screams will not be heard, writes Madeleine Bunting in The Guardian today, reminding us how Fallujah became a case study in how to win the war but lose the occupation.

In fact, even a “victory” there (depending on one’s definition) will not limit the violence throughout Iraq; on the contrary, says Bunting, the insurgency is increasingly decentralized, and “the quick copying of terrorist techniques indicates some degree of cooperation.”

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The re-election of Israel’s enemy
Monday, November 8, 2004, 12:33
It’s not Arafat, and it’s not another Palestinian, Arab, or even European – all of whom Israel usually claims as enemies. Israel’s enemy is George Bush, according to Gideon Levy, who argues in an op-ed in yesterday’s Haaretz that a true friend would save Israel from itself, while George Bush – who will give Israel four more years of freedom to act as it pleases - is one of the worst presidents ever.

After all, Levy writes, “the leader who is responsible for the killing of 100,000 Iraqi civilians is not moved by the deeds of the Israeli occupation.” This is bad news for Israel, he goes on: "Bush's first four years will go down in history as a calamity, as a period in which Israel discovered that there are no limits to the force it is allowed to exercise. It will take a great many years before Israel is weaned from this."

Very simple and to the point, Levy’s piece reiterates basic reasoning many already believe; it is well worth reading.

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Iraqi civilians under attack and martial law
Monday, November 8, 2004, 04:27
While things are certainly not improving in Iraq, in spite of what Bush would have us believe, some aspects are starting to resemble the good old days of dictatorship, which several other Arab regimes still enjoy: the so-called emergency laws, which can conveniently be used and abused to the regimes’ content.

Martial law has been imposed in most of Iraq for 60 days, initially. In Fallujah, as its residents helplessly awaited the promised American assault, all men between the ages of 15 and 55 have been banned from the streets. The roads into Fallujah and Ramadi have been closed, and more restrictions are likely to follow.

What exactly the Americans are trying to achieve with this unprecedented attack is unclear. The insurgency, and the terrorism, are spreading throughout Iraq like wildfire, and the assault on various cities is only going to increase the hopelessness.

Only one thing to smile about, albeit in a sad, exasperated way: apparently, US forces say they are only waiting for Allawi’s go-ahead before attacking Fallujah.

Well, now they have it, if the bombs falling on the city are any indication.

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Israeli child abusers roaming free in the West Bank
Monday, November 8, 2004, 03:33
It’s bad enough that armed, radical Israeli settlers are openly taunting Palestinians on the very land that they stole from them, if not physically hurting them or killing them on a regular basis.

Some have now made it their savage business to taunt children on their way to school, making their daily trip a horror and a misery. According to AFP, these poor kids now prefer to take a 10-kilometer road to get to school, rather than the 2-kilometer one on which adult Israeli settlers, accompanied by dogs, verbally and physically abuse helpless Palestinian children.

Would this despicable behavior be ignored if it were to take place in the “civilized” world? Of course not; in fact, this treatment would not even – or especially not - be tolerated on animals.

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Warmongers on the peace path?
Monday, November 8, 2004, 02:59
It frankly feels like Arafat has already died several times this week, judging from the continuous breaking news stories about the status of his health, and the questions on the consequences of his eventual demise on the “peace process.” Seriously. Everyone wants to know if his death will present new “opportunities for peace,” as if he was single-handedly responsible for the current state of affairs and Israel was an innocent bystander.

As luck would have it, Tony Blair (who seems to agree with that premise) is flying to Washington this week to have a chat with his best (and possibly only) friend, mainly to celebrate his second term in the White House, possibly to discuss how to best continue the spin on Iraq, but also (don’t hold your breath now) to launch a new Middle East peace process.

Whatever that means. But something tells me that this “process” will not force Israel to apply UNSC Resolution 242, and even less 194, or even the pathetic Roadmap.

So what magic formula will they come up with this time? What strange substitutes for Palestinian rights will they “offer” this time? Was this sudden upsurge in Blair’s conscience planned anyway for after Bush’s election, under the assumption that Dubya would be more prone to rational thinking and finally understand that the Palestinian issue needs to be settled? Or is Blair also jumping on the occasion of Arafat’s imminent death, wrongly assuming that the impediments to peace would be forever removed?

Actually, it’s even more ridiculous than that: Blair wants to capitalize on the “opportunity” of Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza, according to an aide who clearly hasn’t been reading the Israeli papers and who thus wasn’t able to tell his boss that there is no peace process as far as Sharon is concerned. He also apparently doesn’t know that the withdrawal from Gaza will still be an Israeli occupation by proxy, that Gaza will remain the world’s largest ghetto, cut off from the world from every side, and that Israel will not remove settlements from the West Bank, allow Palestinians to return home, or do anything that could even be remotely considered a peaceful gesture.

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More on the statistics of death in Iraq
Monday, November 8, 2004, 02:18
Since its publication in The Lancet, the report estimating the number of Iraqi deaths at around 100,000 since the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq has been trashed and ridiculed by numerous commentators who couldn’t wait to dismiss the notion that innocent people were dying as a result of the “liberation” of Iraq.

This week, however, a respected publication which had supported the war on Iraq has given its verdict. The Economist has largely validated the methodology and even the sample size used by the researchers, detailing how such studies are carried out and explaining that the figures closest to 98,000 (whether higher or lower) are the ones most likely to be correct.

The Economist can certainly not be accused of being leftist or anti-war, and it is calling for more research on the casualties of the war, a call which will hopefully be heeded by the current decision makers in Iraq, since the current casualty figures (proven or estimated) do not seem to have moved a single one of them.

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