Thursday, April 08, 2004

B.S., B.S., and more B.S 

This morning the former congressional leader Newt Gingrich was on Fox TV discussing the Iraq situation. In being an apologist for the ongoing war in Iraq he stated that the Shi'ite leader al-Sadr is "a murderer who murdered a fellow Shi'ite clerk". But of course he couldn't be more wrong.

There were two Shi'ite clerics who were mudered. One was a cleric who had been in exile for many years and was brought back to be a "moderating influence". The other was a cleric who had been a collaborator to the Saddam Hussien regime. When they were leaving a mosque in Najaf they were set upon by a mob of other Shi'ites (who may or may not have been supporters of al-Sadr) and murdered. So Sadr has no direct role in the murder. He is accused of murder for having spoken out against these clerics and thereby having created an atmosphere under which they were murdered. Not exactly what Gingrich was trying to imply is it?

Later on when asked if al-Sadr's support amongst the Shi'ites was spreading he stated that "Iran has spent a lot of money trying to foment trouble in Iraq". The first part of the war is not wrapped up and he is already laying the groundwork for the next war.


Wednesday, April 07, 2004

How to read between the lines in Venezuela 

As anyone who follows the Venezuelan private media closely knows honest reporting is not exactly their forte. The overwhelming majority of the private media in Venezuela is extremely hostile to President Chavez and sees its job not as accurately and impartially informing its audience but rather doing anything and everything to remove Chavez from office. Hence from their point of view information is not to be presented in an honest and accurate way but rather to be filtered and presented in a way to cast aspertions on the Chavez government. Whatever may make the government look bad makes the news, regardless of its veracity, while anything that reflects well on the Chavez government is completely ignored and excluded from media coverage.

There are many well known instances of the media's lack of impartiality. Its support for the April 2002 coup, its participation in and support for the lock out of December 2002, and its incitement to violence of February 27, 2004 are just three of the more well known cases.

Aside from these very high profile cases there is the never ending daily propaganda of the Venezuelan media. To extract any usefull information from the media one has to become proficient at reading between the lines. To demonstrate this concept I will give one recent example.

Last week a number of soldiers were very badly burned in western Venezuela. The opposition initially jumped to the conclusion that they were burned as a way of being tortured for having allegedly signed the Revocatory Referendum against President Chavez. The media trumpeted this for several days. The saga of the soldiers has not ended. A number of them are severely injured and one of them died a couple of days ago. This has led to what is the big news in Venezuela, the Communications Minister resigning for having provided inaccurate information to the country regarding the soldiers conditions.

However, while the exact events surrounding the fire that burned the soldiers remain unclear it has come out that none of the soldiers involved signed the petition against Chavez. So what does the opposition media do - does it publish retractions of what it said earlier about the soldiers having signed? No. Do they apologize for their errors? No. Do they in any way acknowledge that they made a mistake and act to correct it? No. But there is one way that one can be certain that in fact the government reports that the soldiers didn't sign the petition are true. And that is that in all articles regarding this incident now all references the the signing of the petition have been dropped. Completely. They simply vanished. And that is how you know those accusations were never true to begin with.

So there you have it, lesson number one on reading between the lines of the Venezuelan press.


The Chavez Recoverey 

It was reported in the Wall Street Journal today that Venezuela's economy grew by 9% in the fourth quarter of 2003 with respect to the fourth quarter of 2002.

So now one can say we have the Chavez recovery after the opposition induced recession.


Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Not even close 

In the ongoing referenda news in Venezuela it was announced today that the petitions against pro-Chavez deputies in the National Assembly failed. The opposition didn't collect enough signatures to convoke a referenda against any assembly member accept one - Imad Saab Saab. And even against him they will have to "repair" some of the signatures which have been disallowed before it is certain that he will be subject to a referendum.

In most cases, the opposition didn't even come close to gathering enough signatures. Against such high profile pro-Chavez deputies as Nicolas Maduro, Iris Varela, Luis Tascon, and Tarek William Saab the opposition fell well short of getting the required signatures.

This is a very significant defeat for the opposition. They only have the possibility of getting rid of one pro-Chavez deputy whereas the pro-Chavez forces have the possibility of revoking up to 12 opposition deputies due to their petition drive being more successful than that of the opposition.


Monday, April 05, 2004

The dogs of war are howling 

Now that the U.S. is taking more casualties in Iraq the pro-war crowd, instead of admitting that they were wrong all along, I now clamoring for yet more violence.

Lawrence Eagleburger, the former National Security Advisor in the first Bush Administration, was on Fox News Sunday night saying, repeatedly, that "we need to put those people down". In other words, we should arrest or kill as many people as necessary to keep them from resisting the occupation. He readily admitted that Iraq was a "mess" but instead of trying to figure out how we got into such a mess or how the U.S. can get out of it his response is more troops, more violence, and more repression. In other words escalation, escalation, and more escalation. Robert McNamara would be proud.

Then today we had President Bush chime in with even more absurdities:

President Bush on Monday portrayed al-Sadr's removal as a step toward protecting democracy. "This is one person that is deciding that rather than allowing democracy to flourish, he's going to exercise force," he told reporters. "We just can't let it stand."

So al-Sadr, who is an Iraqi citizen, doesn't have the right to vote (there are no elections), has no say in the new Iraqi constitution (that too is done without votes), can't freely express his opinions (his newspaper was shut down last week), and has to suffer the daily indignities of occupation by a foreign power. But according to Mr. Bush al-Sadr is the one preventing democracy from flourishing. Such are things in Mr. Bush's down is up and up is down world.


From Bad to Worse 

Eight U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq on Sunday, not by Ba'athists, but by Shi'ites. It was only a matter of time before the U.S. began having serious problems with the Shi'ites. After all, the U.S. won't let them vote, it is occupying their country, and it even denies them elementary freedom of speech rights by shutting down their newspapers. It will only get uglier and deadlier from here on out.

Of course this was all very predictable. The Israelis have extensive first hand experience in dealing with Shi'ites in Lebanon. Here is an a warning to the U.S. that was written in March 2003 predicting what would happen to the U.S in Iraq based on what happened to the Israelis in Lebanon. In part it reads:

Uri Avnery


Bitter Rice

Some thoughts about the war:

Beware of the Shiites. The troubles of the occupation will start after the fighting is over. Here is a personal story and its lessons:

On the fourth day of the 1982 Israeli attack on Lebanon, I crossed the border at a lonely spot near Metulla and looked for the front, which had already reached the outskirts of Sidon. I was driving my private car, accompanied by a woman photographer. We passed a dozen Shiite villages and were received everywhere with great joy. We extracted ourselves only with difficulty from hundreds of villagers, each one insisting that we have coffee at their home. On the previous days, they had showered the soldiers with rice.

A few months later I joined an army convoy going in the opposite direction, from Sidon to Metulla. The soldiers were now wearing bulletproof vests and helmets, many were on the verge of panic.

What had happened? The Shiites had received the Israeli soldiers as liberators. When they realized that they had come to stay as occupiers, they started to kill them.

When the Israeli troops entered Lebanon the Shiites were a down-trodden, powerless community, held in contempt by all the others. After a year of fighting the occupiers, they became a political and military power. The Shiite Hizbullah is the only military force in the Arab world that has beaten the mighty Israeli army.

Sharon is the real father of the Shiite force in Lebanon. Bush may well become the father of Shiite power in Iraq. The Shiites, 60% of the Iraqi population, have until now been down-trodden and powerless. When they realize that the Americans intend to stay, they will start a deadly guerilla campaign. Bush does not intend to leave Iraq, as Sharon did not intend to leave Lebanon.

Then what? America will claim that Iran, the Shiite neighbor, is behind the Shiite guerillas. In Iran there is a lot of oil. That's the next target.

The above quote has already been, in large part, proven correct. Unfortunately, over time it will probably be shown to be completely correct.

As an aside, to those with interest in the ongoing Israeli-Palistinian conflict I would highly recommend reading the web-site of the Israeli peace organization Gush-Shalom. It is very good and informative.


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