Farmers Seek Defenses Against the Giants of Agribusiness

Dandelion Salad

by John Riddell
Global Research, April 3, 2008
Socialist Voice

Around the world, farm income is plummeting, pushing farmers off the land and into destitution. At the very same time, soaring food prices are putting tens of millions onto starvation diets.

Welcome to the bizarre world of capitalist agriculture, where the drive to boost profits of giant transnational corporations is imperiling the production of our means of survival.

Suzanne Weiss and I sought insight into this crisis by talking to farmers who live close to us — in Grey County, 200 kilometers north-west of Toronto. We had been invited there to report on farming in Venezuela to the local unit of the National Farmers Union. Our hosts took time to give us an education in Grey County agricultural economics.

“What is the one single measure that would do the most to help farmers in Ontario?” I asked Rae MacIntyre, president of the Grey County local of the National Farmers Union (NFU).

“Open up food markets to local producers,” he replied. “That would transform the situation.”

MacIntyre’s stress on “local food” reveals how much ground has been lost by Grey County’s 160 NFU members — and their 50,000 farmer colleagues across Ontario — during recent decades of big-business attacks on farmers and degradation of the food system. The challenge before farmers is no longer merely low prices for farm products. They are now almost entirely excluded from grocery-store shelves.

Check out your local supermarket: almost every food product has traveled 3,000 kilometers or more to reach the store.

Exploited producers

But more is at stake. Farmers are working people, exploited by big-business profiteering. Despite the supposed advantages of large-scale farming, Canada has very few capitalist factory-farms worked by hired labour. The great majority of operations are “family farms,” where family members do most or all of the work.

Some working farmers employ seasonal labourers under the government’s oppressive migrant-labour programs. Defense of these workers must be a top priority of the labour movement as a whole. But the primary blame for this shameful system falls on the government that designed it, and the capitalist market that requires it.

Farmers are self-employed and must get by on what their products fetch on a hostile market. Many farmers have been subjugated by onerous contracts with giant corporate customers. They are exploited by big-business suppliers, buyers, and banks just as workers at General Motors or Wal-Mart are.

The last two decades of cutbacks, layoffs, and concession contracts, which wage workers know as “neo-liberalism,” hit farmers with extra severity. In that time, 25% of Canada’s farms disappeared.

‘No more buying local’

Our Grey County hosts, mostly beef and lamb producers, told us that most of their potential corporate customers had stopped buying from local producers, seeking to cut costs through giant contracts with foreign suppliers. Shawn, who runs a sheep farm, had just lost his marketing contract with a grocery chain that was cutting out local producers. Another NFU member had lost his contract for pumpkins. The buyer told him frankly: “No more buying local.”

Jon Radojkovic, a Grey County grower of shiitake mushrooms told us he has given up trying to sell them to Toronto distributors. Instead, he finds his customers through a local bartering network.

Like most Grey County farmers, Rae MacIntyre raises beef. Not long ago, “there was a slaughterhouse in every county,” he says. That’s all gone now; the only significant purchaser is the corporate goliath, Cargill, which has an abattoir in Guelph, MacIntyre says. Most Ontario beef is sold into the U.S. for whatever it will bring, and these days that’s next to nothing.

Grey County used to be a major supplier of apples. Now few apples are sold, MacIntyre says. “Juice apples … are often composted or used for animal feed.” Many of the apples we see in stores are flown in from China. The same applies to apple juice and apple sauce, despite the misleading “made in Canada” labels on the packaging.

“Many good farmers have given up,” says Radojkovic. “They were proud and happy; now they have lost hope — killed by low prices.”

The average farm in Canada represented an investment of $1.3 million in 2006 — more per worker than in any other industry. Yet the average farmer’s “net market income” from this massive investment was only $13,000. And more than two-thirds must be set aside to provide for depreciation of buildings and equipment.

The NFU calculates that Ontario farmers` real return on their investment dropped to zero in 1991, and has declined since to “negative $15,000 per farm” in 2006.

Meanwhile, farm debt has more than doubled over the last two decades. With income levels so low, such debts can usually be repaid only be selling the farm.

Farmers try to compensate by taking off-farm jobs. Small and mid-sized Ontario farms get 90% of their income that way. Even farms with the highest sales get more than a quarter of their total revenue from off-farm jobs.

Given the disastrous economic conditions, few young people are stepping forward to replace Canada’s aging farm work force. In twenty years, the number of farmers under 35 years old is down 62%.

Corporate profiteering

The sickness in Canada’s farms is rooted in the way the proceeds of agriculture are divided between farmers and workers, on the one hand, and capitalist corporations on the other.

In Canada’s hog industry, between 1988 and 2002, and despite inflation, farm-gate prices (including inflation) fell 5% from 1988 to 2007. Packinghouse workers’ wages rose a bit, but much less than inflation. Yet the price of pork to consumers went up 39%.

In 2005, the NFU noted that wheat farmers were getting five cents from each loaf of bread, the same amount as thirty years earlier. The income of supermarket workers has been under sharp attack. But the share of each loaf that goes to corporate millers, bakers, and grocers rose from 38 cents to $1.35.

In 2004, which the NFU says was the second-worst year for farming in history, the corporations living off the farmers had their most profitable year ever. The corporations are appropriating every penny of the profits of farming — indeed, more than 100%, since farmers are unable to cover their costs from farm-product sales.

‘The problem is market power’

How do they get away with it?

“The problem is market power,” a Farmers Union document explains. On one side are the “huge transnationals with only two or three competitors” — on the other side, “individual farmers competing in a global market against a billion other farmers.” In such conditions, agribusiness can set prices at will — whatever level best drains the farmers’ resources without shutting down cultivation completely.

Farmers’ incomes can be stabilized in two ways, the NFU points out: (1) government subsidy programs that “transfer money from taxpayers” and (2) programs to enable farmers “to extract money from the marketplace.” The farmers` union strongly advises a focus on enabling farmers to gain more market power.

“If farmers are more powerful, they will be more profitable,” the NFU concludes.

Unity in marketing

Farmers have long sought to achieve market power in the same way as workers — by joining together in order to impose a higher price for their product.

Workers do this through unions, which establish “market power” by bargaining collectively to set wage levels.

Farmers have sought to establish agencies — under their own or government management — that exercise control over the marketing of farm produce. The NFU points to the merits of existing plans of this type, such as the Canadian Wheat Board or Ontario’s egg and milk marketing boards.

In recent years, such “supply management” plans have come under government attack, and some have been shut down. New marketing agreements of this type are banned by the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA clears the decks for agribusinesses to combine worldwide in giant transnational monopolies, while preventing the world’s atomized and oppressed farmers from uniting in self-defense.

Imagine a law banning collective bargaining by unions, and you’ll have some idea of the effect NAFTA has on farmers.

Hostile governments

Governments in Canada could ignore the NAFTA provisions, citing the need for food products to conform to local environmental and health regulations. But their policies cater to transnational corporations and are hostile to smaller family-based farms.

“The Ontario government wants land and farming to be in a few strong hands,” Rae MacIntyre comments. Leafing through government documents, he reads out some examples of this attitude:

  • A government leader says, “I remain committed to working with industry leaders.” Rae’s comment: “That means Cargill.”
  • “$1.5 billion in aid to livestock producers.” Farmers will not see a penny of that, he says. This aid goes only to farms that have been profitable for three years running, which excludes almost all family farms.

Rae points to other government programs that exclude farmers with off-farm income — which again cuts out the vast majority who need help the most.

He recalls the statement of Ontario Deputy Agriculture Minister Frank Ingratta in 2004 that “We could produce all the product we need from 10,000 large highly mechanized farms” rather than the present 57,000. Despite Ingratta’s later denial, many farmers believe that the “10,000 farms” goal corresponds to current government policy.

Official programs with praiseworthy goals are blocked by bureaucratic methods. Several of the Grey County farmers express frustration with government staffers who are long on talk and promises but unwilling to take action. Meanwhile, the government has been creative in thinking up new regulations that make farming more difficult and shift inspection and other costs onto the farmers` backs.

NFU program

The Farmers Union proposes an array of measures to help working farmers resist corporate profiteering. Among them:

  • Encourage supply management and take initiatives to implement it internationally.
  • Establish price supports to guarantee that farmers receive their cost of production.
  • Break the monopoly of corporate suppliers of seed, fertilizer, and other farm inputs by funding creation of farmer-owned co-ops.
  • Ban corporate farming as well as corporate contracts that dictate where farmers buy inputs and sell their product.
  • Provide young people who want to farm with access to the land through community land trusts and land banks; ease the mountain of debt that now prevents sons and daughters from taking over the family farm.

None of this needs to increase the cost of food to consumers, the NFU points out. Farmers receive so little of the food dollar that the cost of increasing their share can be absorbed by corporate processors and retailers without price increases.

Consumer awareness

In recent years, a new ally for working farmers has appeared: the ecologically minded consumer. Many such consumers now visit Grey County as tourists. “Tourists have new tastes,” says NFU member Lillian Burgess. “They prefer fresh local food. When buying food, they ask, ‘Where was it grown.’”

This new interest in local food has a Third World feel, Burgess says. Impoverished locals have to buy cheap, at the franchised groceries, but “tourists are willing to pay more.”

The rise of “food tourism” reflects concerns felt by a growing number of consumers about the impact of corporate methods on food supply:

  • Locally grown food is prized by many consumers as fresher, tastier, and healthier; many seek direct contact with the farmer.
  • Air-freighting food around the world when it can be grown locally generates damaging and unnecessary carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.
  • Agribusiness imposes industrial farming methods that are unhealthy and unsustainable.
  • Environmental degradation and the diversion of food to fuel are placing the security of world food supplies in jeopardy, as has been eloquently explained by Fidel Castro and other leaders of the Global South.

World outlook

According to a United Nations report, retail prices for food worldwide in 2007 were 40% higher than in 2006. The price of rice, wheat, and corn doubled. (Globe and Mail, March 29) The long-term impact on farmers is uncertain. Those producing grain for the world market may benefit. But farmers buying grain for fodder will pay more. The big winners will be the agribusiness giants. And the big losers are the world’s poor — many of them farmers.

The National Farmers Union has been alert to these threats. On May 9, 2006, it wrote the United Nations, noting that the world body’s own reports show a decline in the “area of arable and permanent crops” since 2001. Grain stocks are the lowest since 1975. “In five of the last six years,” it notes, “our global population ate significantly more grain than farmers produced.”

The NFU seeks to develop an international response to this crisis as part of its participation in the international farmers’ organization Vía Campesina (Farmers’ Way).

Local-food initiative

Given the scope of the challenge, the Grey County NFU members’ focus on the local-food issue is quite modest. It concedes that for now, local farmers have been driven from mainstream supermarkets and must focus instead on niche markets. But winning the chance to provide consumers with a local-food alternative could be vital for these farmers’ survival.

Wayne Roberts, a Toronto-based ecologist active in efforts to promote local food, points out how easily such a transition could begin. “Two simple actions by the Ontario government would transform the situation,” he says.

First, “all government-funded institutions could buy local and sustainable food: jails, hospitals, educational institutions, seniors residences, and the like. [The government] would not even have to change a law. Ontario farmers would need five to ten years to catch up with the demand. This is readily doable and cost-effective; it just takes organizing to bring it to the attention of the politicians.”

Roberts cites a recent victory in convincing the massive University of Toronto to go over to purchasing local and “sustainable” foods. Such efforts are coordinated through Local Food Plus, which establishes criteria for sustainable food based on positive social and ecological practices.

Roberts’s second proposal concerns the right to farm. As things stand, land is available to aspiring farmers only in the form of large farms that sell for hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. “The provincial government could make land available to those who wish to farm,” he says.

The government owns plenty of idle agricultural land, he says. “They could lease it out in small packets for reasonable prices, with special programs to encourage members of minority groups and new immigrants who may wish to grow products favored by their communities and neglected by conventional supermarkets.”

Labor’s stake

The local-food effort is helping to provide farmers with an influential potential ally — the ecological movement. Farmers deserve determined support from the labour movement as well. Working people have a lot to gain from the availability of local-food at grocery stores and from ecologically sound and sustainable agriculture.

It is also a question of solidarity. Working people who are employed need to stand together with farmers, fishers, truckers, and other independent producers who are exploited by the same corporations and face the same enemy.

John Riddell is co-editor of Socialist Voice ( and a member of Socialist Project.


© Copyright John Riddell, Socialist Voice, 2008
The url address of this article is:

General William Odom Tells Senate: Rapid Withdrawal Is Only Solution

Dandelion Salad

By William E. Odom, LT General, USA, Ret.
2 April 2008


Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. It is an honor to appear before you again. The last occasion was in January 2007, when the topic was the troop surge. Today you are asking if it has worked. Last year I rejected the claim that it was a new strategy. Rather, I said, it is a new tactic used to achieve the same old strategic aim, political stability. And I foresaw no serious prospects for success.

I see no reason to change my judgment now. The surge is prolonging instability, not creating the conditions for unity as the president claims.

Last year, General Petraeus wisely declined to promise a military solution to this political problem, saying that he could lower the level of violence, allowing a limited time for the Iraqi leaders to strike a political deal. Violence has been temporarily reduced but today there is credible evidence that the political situation is far more fragmented. And currently we see violence surge in Baghdad and Basra. In fact, it has also remained sporadic and significant inseveral other parts of Iraq over the past year, notwithstanding the notable drop in Baghdad and Anbar Province.

More disturbing, Prime Minister Maliki has initiated military action and then dragged in US forces to help his own troops destroy his Shiite competitors. This is a political setback, not a political solution. Such is the result of the surge tactic.

No less disturbing has been the steady violence in the Mosul area, and the tensions in Kirkuk between Kurds, Arabs, and Turkomen. A showdown over control of the oil fields there surely awaits us. And the idea that some kind of a federal solution can cut this Gordian knot strikes me as a wild fantasy, wholly out of touch with Kurdish realities.

Also disturbing is Turkey’s military incursion to destroy Kurdish PKK groups in the border region. That confronted the US government with a choice: either to support its NATO ally, or to make good on its commitment to Kurdish leaders to insure their security. It chose the former, and that makes it clear to the Kurds that the United States will sacrifice their security to its larger interests in Turkey.

Turning to the apparent success in Anbar province and a few other Sunni areas, this is not the positive situation it is purported to be. Certainly violence has declined as local Sunni shieks have begun to cooperate with US forces. But the surge tactic cannot be given full credit. The decline started earlier on Sunni initiative. What are their motives? First, anger at al Qaeda operatives and second, their financial plight.

Their break with al Qaeda should give us little comfort. The Sunnis welcomed anyone who would help them kill Americans, including al Qaeda. The concern we hear the president and his aides express about a residual base left for al Qaeda if we withdraw is utter nonsense. The Sunnis will soon destroy al Qaeda if we leave Iraq. The Kurds do not allow them in their region, and the Shiites, like the Iranians, detest al Qaeda. To understand why, one need only take note of the al Qaeda public diplomacy campaign over the past year or so on internet blogs. They implore the United States to bomb and invade Iran and destroy this apostate Shiite regime. As an aside, it gives me pause to learn that our vice president and some members of the Senate are aligned with al Qaeda on spreading the war to Iran.

Let me emphasize that our new Sunni friends insist on being paid for their loyalty. I have heard, for example, a rough estimate that the cost in one area of about 100 square kilometers is $250,000 per day. And periodically they threaten to defect unless their fees are increased. You might want to find out the total costs for these deals forecasted for the next several years, because they are not small and they do not promise to end. Remember, we do not own these people. We merely rent them. And they can break the lease at any moment. At the same time, this deal protects them to some degree from the government’s troops and police, hardly a sign of political reconciliation.

Now let us consider the implications of the proliferating deals with the Sunni strongmen. They are far from unified among themselves. Some remain with al Qaeda. Many who break and join our forces are beholden to no one. Thus the decline in violence reflects a dispersion of power to dozens of local strong men who distrust the government and occasionally fight among themselves. Thus the basic military situation is far worse because of the proliferation of armed groups under local military chiefs who follow a proliferating number of political bosses.

This can hardly be called greater military stability, much less progress toward political consolidation, and to call it fragility that needs more time to become success is to ignore its implications. At the same time, Prime Minister Maliki’s military actions in Basra and Baghdad, indicate even wider political and military fragmentation. We are witnessing is more accurately described as the road to the Balkanization of Iraq, that is, political fragmentation. We are being asked by the president to believe that this shift of so much power and finance to so many local chieftains is the road to political centralization. He describes the process as building the state from the bottom up.

I challenge you to press the administration’s witnesses this week to explain this absurdity. Ask them to name a single historical case where power has been aggregated successfully from local strong men to a central government except through bloody violence leading to a single winner, most often a dictator. That is the history of feudal Europe’s transformation to the age of absolute monarchy. It is the story of the American colonization of the west and our Civil War. It took England 800 years to subdue clan rule on what is now the English-Scottish border. And it is the source of violence in Bosnia and Kosovo.

How can our leaders celebrate this diffusion of power as effective state building? More accurately described, it has placed the United States astride several civil wars. And it allows all sides to consolidate, rearm, and refill their financial coffers at the US expense.

To sum up, we face a deteriorating political situation with an over extended army. When the administration’s witnesses appear before you, you should make them clarify how long the army and marines can sustain this band-aid strategy.

The only sensible strategy is to withdraw rapidly but in good order. Only that step can break the paralysis now gripping US strategy in the region. The next step is to choose a new aim, regional stability, not a meaningless victory in Iraq. And progress toward that goal requires revising our policy toward Iran. If the president merely renounced his threat of regime change by force, that could prompt Iran to lessen its support to Taliban groups in Afghanistan. Iran detests the Taliban and supports them only because they will kill more Americans in Afghanistan as retaliation in event of a US attack on Iran. Iran’s policy toward Iraq would also have to change radically as we withdraw. It cannot want instability there. Iraqi Shiites are Arabs, and they know that Persians look down on them. Cooperation between them has its limits.

No quick reconciliation between the US and Iran is likely, but US steps to make Iran feel more secure make it far more conceivable than a policy calculated to increase its insecurity. The president’s policy has reinforced Iran’s determination to acquire nuclear weapons, the very thing he purports to be trying to prevent.

Withdrawal from Iraq does not mean withdrawal from the region. It must include a realignment and reassertion of US forces and diplomacy that give us a better chance to achieve our aim.

A number of reasons are given for not withdrawing soon and completely. I have refuted them repeatedly before but they have more lives than a cat. Let [me] try again [to]explain why they don’t make

First, it is insisted that we must leave behind military training element with no combat forces to secure them. This makes no sense at all. The idea that US military trainers left alone in Iraq can be safe and effective is flatly rejected by several NCOs and junior officers I have heard describe their personal experiences. Moreover, training foreign forces before they have a consolidated political authority to command their loyalty is a windmill tilt. Finally, Iraq is not short on military skills.

Second, it is insisted that chaos will follow our withdrawal. We heard that argument as the “domino theory” in Vietnam. Even so, the path to political stability will be bloody regardless of whether we withdraw or not. The idea that the United States has a moral responsibility to prevent this ignores that reality. We are certainly to blame for it, but we do not have the physical means to prevent it. American leaders who insist that it is in our power to do so are misleading both the public and themselves if they believe it. The real moral question is whether to risk the lives of more Americans. Unlike preventing chaos, we have the physical means to stop sending more troops where many will be killed or wounded. That is the moral responsibility to our country which no American leaders seems willing to assume.

Third, nay sayers insist that our withdrawal will create regional instability. This confuses cause with effect. Our forces in Iraq and our threat to change Iran’s regime are making the region unstable. Those who link instability with a US withdrawal have it exactly backwards. Our ostrich strategy of keeping our heads buried in the sands of Iraq has done nothing but advance our enemies’ interest.

I implore you to reject these fallacious excuses for prolonging the commitment of US forces to war in Iraq.

Thanks for this opportunity to testify today.


Two related audio files:

Media conference call with on April 1st.

Radio show with on March 17th.

h/t: Greg via After Downing Street

Mosaic News – 4/2/08: World News from the Middle East

Dandelion Salad



This video may contain images depicting the reality and horror of war/violence and should only be viewed by a mature audience.


For more:
“Bush Seeks NATO’s Help,” Al Jazeera TV, Qatar
“Taliban Re-group for Spring Offensive,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
“Interview With Iraqi Foreign Minister,” Al Arabiya TV, UAE
“Mauritania Faces Food Crisis,” Dubai TV, UAE
“The Lebanese Political Party System,” New TV, Lebanon
“Indonesia Protests Anti-Islam Film,” Al-Alam TV, Iran
“Hamas Video Incites Hatred,” IBA TV, Israel
Produced for Link TV by Jamal Dajani.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from posted with vodpod


War Is A Racket – US Lawmakers Have As Much As $196 Million Invested In “Defense” Companies

Dandelion Salad

I’ve been waiting for this to come out. About time, too. Personal profits over what is best for our country, shame on all of them! ~ Lo

By The Associated Press
04/03/08 “AP



A Tragi-Comic Cavalcade of Chicanery by Justin Raimondo

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Foreclosure Prevention Act Rewards Giant Homebuilders Complicit in Subprime Scam

Digg It

by The Other Katherine Harris
Featured writer
Dandelion Salad

The Other Katherine Harris’s blog
April 3, 2008

Not to be outdone by our scamming Wall Street bankers, our scamming builders have their hands out, too. If the Foreclosure Prevention Act goes through as written, they’ll profit by as much as $33 billion in tax breaks, according to a new construction industry report: A Multi-Billion Bailout for Those at Fault: Corporate Homebuilders, the Housing Crash and the Mortgage Crisis [pdf], issued by LIUNA (the Laborers’ International Union of North America, which represents 10 million construction workers).

What the National Association of Home Builders’ lobbyists have slipped into legislation meant to help troubled homeowners is a “carry-back” provision allowing builders to apply their losses from 2006 and 2007 against taxes paid on profits as long ago as 2003. This would give them a powerful incentive to dump unsold properties at prices that will further depress the housing market – in addition to billions in savings, at public expense and at a time when we can ill-afford lost revenue.

The builders also stand to benefit enormously from recent changes at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, permitting more loans and higher limits – another victory for the NAHB’s so-called “Build PAC”, won in concert with lobbyists for the National Association of Realtors. These are the two largest business PACs in the nation and the builders have been pitching a fit lately. In February, the NAHB angrily announced suspension of all political donations, until its demands were met. Since the group doled out $3.5 million for the 2005-2006 election cycle, their sudden tight-fistedness was no doubt noticed.

Significantly, many homebuilders have cashed in on the mortgage trade, not just construction. Their financial subsidiaries leapt onto the predatory lending bandwagon in a massive way and steadily escalated that aspect of the business. In 2006, for instance, giants like KB Home, DH Horton, Lennar, Pulte and Shea generated from 60-400 percent more subprime loans than during the prior year (with little or no increase in prime loans).

And let’s remember that these guys made out like oilmen for ages – indeed, substantially better for a long while. In September of 2005, financial analyst Jon Markman wrote, “Stocks of the country’s two largest home-builders, Pulte Homes and D.R. Horton are up 580% and 460% over the past five years, respectively, while shares of the two best-performing major international oil companies, Total and BP are up 101% and 47%.” By contrast, the broad market had then lost 20 percent of its value since September, 2000.

Yes, home sales are down now, but do you really think we need to worry about these huge corporations that fed so richly on the speculative housing bubble they helped inflate?

The president of LIUNA doesn’t. Terence M. O’Sullivan stated, “This bill will force American taxpayers who are already struggling with foreclosure, job loss and shrinking retirement savings to pay again for homebuilders’ reckless and unethical behavior. Corporate homebuilders are tone deaf to even ask for it and Congress should not acquiesce to it. This bill needs to be fixed so it does not cause further damage by rewarding those who helped cause the crisis and who can well fend for themselves.”

Memo: Laws Didn’t Apply to Interrogators

Dandelion Salad

By Dan Eggen and Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Justice Dept. Official in 2003 Said President’s Wartime Authority Trumped Many Statutes

The Justice Department sent a legal memorandum to the Pentagon in 2003 asserting that federal laws prohibiting assault, maiming and other crimes did not apply to military interrogators who questioned al-Qaeda captives because the president’s ultimate authority as commander in chief overrode such statutes.

The 81-page memo, which was declassified and released publicly yesterday, argues that poking, slapping or shoving detainees would not give rise to criminal liability. The document also appears to defend the use of mind-altering drugs that do not produce “an extreme effect” calculated to “cause a profound disruption of the senses or personality.”



FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

We’re Sitting In at the House Judiciary Committee Office Right Now

Dandelion Salad

by David Swanson
April 3, 2008

A dozen of us have begun a sit-in at the House Judiciary Committee office. Come join us at Rayburn 2138. Leslie Angeline and Ellen Taylor of Code Pink are the leaders here. Laurel Jensen is here, and Michael Heaney, Thalia Doukas, Darryl Love, Ed Dickau, Michael Beer, Jes Richardson, Mike Marceau, Dan… People are joining us every few minutes. We’re sitting around in the main room of the office. We have two video cameras going, and we’re discussing…

10:40 Actually, a staffer just came out and said that everyone could go back to another room to meet with Chairman John Conyers “except for David Swanson.”

10:45 A few of us are talking in the big room while everyone else is in a back room with Chairman Conyers and some staffers. Staffers with whom I worked two-and-a-half years ago and who are mad at me for disagreeing with their turn against impeachment are all here: Perry Applebaum, Ted Kalo, Jonathan Godfrey. Back then they were working with us on impeachment and did not tell us that only elections mattered. Back then, the voters wanted impeachment and justice demanded it, so we didn’t ask which was the motivation. In 2006, when the RNC demanded a ban and Pelosi complied, everything changed. The Judiciary Committee now acts on a pair of false beliefs: Elections are more important, and impeachment would be bad for elections. One is immoral, the other just uninformed.

You can let the House Judiciary Committee know your opinion at (202) 224-3121. Please do so right now. They’re good people. I know they are. But something is blocking them. Help break the logjam!


DAVID SWANSON is a co-founder of After Downing Street, a writer and activist, and the Washington Director of He is a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, and serves on the Executive Council of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, TNG-CWA. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign, Media Coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as Communications Coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson obtained a Master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia in 1997.


McCain’s “war on terror” remix (video)

Dandelion Salad


The Real News Network does a first take on McCain’s foreign policy

Thursday April 3rd, 2008

The Real Story is a test of a new format for The Real News Network. More like a television show, we plan to make this a regular feature of our future programming. Please let us know what you think. If you like it, the best way to say so, is with a donation. Thank you for watching!

Continue reading

Rove caught in his own worst nightmare… By Larisa Alexandrovna

Dandelion Salad

By Larisa Alexandrovna
April 02, 2008

Apparently Karl Rove’s interest in going after whistle-blower, Dana Jill Simpson, has gotten him so unhinged that he has stepped straight into a trap that he himself would have laid not too long ago – when he had the power to do so – against a political “enemy.” Now he has stepped into a trap laid for him by the reality of the situation, that is, by his own ego in an interview with GQ.

GQ decided to go interview Rove – for reasons I am still trying to grasp, given that Rove is not much of a cover-seller. I have it on good authority, however, that Rove was adamant that GQ ask questions about Jill Simpson – and guess what? They asked him about Ms. Simpson:

“[rolls his eyes] Will you do me a favor and go on Power Line and Google “Dana Jill Simpson” [the Republican lawyer who told 60 Minutes that Rove asked her to take a picture of Governor Siegelman cheating on his wife]? She’s a complete lunatic. I’ve never met this woman. This woman was not involved in any campaign in which I was involved. I have yet to find anybody who knows her. And what the media has done on this… No one has read the 143-page deposition that she gave congressional investigators—143 pages. When she shows up to give her explanation of all this, do you know how many times my name appears? Zero times. Nobody checked!”


Is The “Israel Lobby” Losing Its Grip?

Dandelion Salad

By Alan Hart
04/02/08 “ICH

In an perceptive piece for The American Conservative under the headline OBAMA’S ISRAEL TEST, Scott McConnell asked,  “Is the lobby losing its grip?” It seems so, but I think it’s important to understand the choice that will exist for the Jews of the world, and Jewish Americans especially, if American politicians (many if not all) and the mainstream media do stop being frightened of offending the lobby. 

But first things first. The lobby in question is not what McConnell and others including Mearsheimer and Walt state it to be. It’s not “the Israel lobby”. It could only be called that if it represented the views of all Israeli Jews. It does not do so any more than AIPAC represents the views of all Jewish Americans. (According to recent polls, AIPAC probably speaks for not more than one-third of all Jewish Americans and possibly considerably less). 

A more accurate (but not completely accurate) description of the particular phenomenon is “Likud lobby”, terminology which conveys the correct impression that the lobby is rightwing and very hardline, even extreme, and opposed to peace on any terms the vast majority of Palestinians and most other Arabs and Muslims everywhere could accept. 

Way back in February 1980, I had a private conversation with Shimon Peres. He was then the leader of Israel’s Labour Party, the main opposition to Menachem Begin’s Likud dominated ruling coalition, which was speeding up the colonisation of the occupied West Bank. In the course of this conversation, I used the term “Israel lobby”. In a voice laced with despair and a hint of anger, Peres said: “It’s not an Israel lobby. It’s a Likud lobby. And that’s my problem.” (At the time Peres and almost the whole world including President Carter was hoping that he would win Israel’s next election and deny Begin a second term in office as prime minister. He didn’t). 

In due course, after Ariel Sharon broke with Likud to form the Kadima Party, the lobby became the Likud-Kadima lobby, but it remained Likud in its core essence. The only major difference between Likud and Kadima is that the latter understands, as Prime Minister Olmert recently admitted, that the Zionist state of Israel would be finished, destroyed by the demographic time-bomb of occupation, if it did not withdraw from some of the West Bank. (Sharon did not withdraw from Gaza for peace but as a first step to defusing the demographic time-bomb; and, if he could do it without provoking a Jewish civil war, he was intending at some point to withdraw from about half, more or less, of the West Bank. He was not at all concerned that the 40 to 60 percent of it he was intending to withdraw from would not and could not constitute a viable Palestinian mini-state). 

All things considered, including Israel’s on-going colonisation of those parts of the occupied West Bank its leaders intend to keep for ever, I think (and have long thought) that the best way to serve the cause of understanding is to give the particular phenomenon its proper name. It is not the Israel lobby, or even the Likud or Likud-Kadima lobby. It is the Zionist lobby.

For those who are unaware of what Zionism actually is – I mean political Zionism as opposed to spiritual Zionism – and why it is the complete opposite of Judaism, I offer the following brief explanation. 

Judaism is the religion of Jews, not the Jews because not all Jews are religious. And, like Christianity and Islam, Judaism has at its core a set of moral values and ethical principles. All the religious Jews of the world look to Jerusalem as the centre of their religion and spiritual capital, and in that sense they could be said to be, and many do regard themselves as being, spiritual Zionists. 

Political Zionism is the nationalism of some Jews, actually a tiny minority of the world’s Jews at the time of Zionism’s first public and dishonest mission statement in 1897, which colonised land, Palestine, to create a state for some Jews; an enterprise which required the incoming, alien Zionist colonisers – most if not all of whom had no biological connection to the ancient Hebrews, the first Israelites – to ethnically cleanse the land of most of its indigenous Arab inhabitants, the majority population at the time of the colonisation. A Zionist today is one, not necessarily a Jew, who (to quote Balfour) supports the Zionist state of Israel “right or wrong”, and who cannot or will not admit that a wrong was done to the Palestinians by Zionism, a wrong that must be righted on terms acceptable to the Palestinians for justice and peace. 

The whole point of Zionism’s colonial enterprise was, as it still is, to take for keeping the maximum amount of Arab land with the minimum number of Arabs on it; an enterprise that was assisted by the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust, which gave Zionism a blackmail card to silence criticism of Israel throughout the mainly Gentile Judeo-Christian world and suppress informed and honest debate about who must do what and why for justice and peace.  

In summary it can be said that Zionism makes a mockery of, and has contempt for, the moral values and ethical principles of Judaism. That being so, it’s all the more amazing that Zionist spin doctors succeeded in making the mainly Gentile Judeo-Christian world believe that Judaism and Zionism are one and the same thing. They are emphatically not. Zionism, as the title of my latest book asserts and its substance demonstrates, is the real enemy of the Jews, as well as being the biggest single threat to the peace of the region and arguably the world. 

Knowledge of the difference between Judaism and Zionism is the key to understanding. It’s the explanation of why it is perfectly possible to be passionately anti-Zionist (opposed to Zionism’s colonial enterprise) without being in any way, shape or form anti-Semitic (anti-Jew). It’s also the explanation of why it it is wrong to blame all Jews for the crimes of the relative few. (As a matter of fact, almost all Arabs have always known the difference between Judaism and Zionism; and that’s why they call for the de-Zionization of Palestine, and not, repeat not, the destruction of  the Jews now living in it). 

McConnell noted that President Kennedy buckled under Zionist lobby pressure. He did indeed, and he was very angry about having to do so and become what he himself described as a “political whore”.  As I document in Volume Two of my book, Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, presidential candidate Kennedy said the following to an old and trusted friend, newspaper columnist Charles Bartlett, after he, Kennedy, had been summoned to a fund raising meeting: 

“As an American citizen I am outraged to have a Zionist group come to me and say – ‘We know your campaign is in trouble. We’re willing to pay your bills if you let us have control of your Middle East policy.” (In further remarks to Bartlett, a furious JFK emphasised “they wanted control!” My guess is that they didn’t put it that way, but that what they said left no room for JFK to doubt that control was what they wanted). 

As I also document in my book, there is good evidence for believing that, if he had been allowed to live, a second term President Kennedy would have addressed the root cause of the conflict in and over Palestine, even at the cost of, Eisenhower-like, confronting the Zionist lobby. (I think  – see McConnell’s obeservations below – that it’s not unreasonable to speculate that a second term President Obama, if he is allowed to live, could be the White House occupant who calls and holds Zionism to account). 

McConnell wrote that several wars and many billions of dollars later (after JFK), the politics of Israel-Palestine are not exactly the same as 50 years ago but not that different either. “Israel is more powerful and more dependent on American largesse. Americans are far more deeply engaged in the Middle East and for the most part they are not happy about it.” 

And this about the man most likely to be America’s next President: “On the surface, the tie between Barack Obama and Israel’s establishment supporters is warm and comfortable…  Nonetheless, there’s a sense among the Jewish establishment (I imagine McConnell probably means the Zionist establishment) that all is not as it seems – and if the view has not yet crystallized that Obama has a less Israelocentric perception of he Middle East than any other major party nominee since Eisenhower, there is foreboding that times are a changin’. (My emphasis added). 

And this is how McConnell sees change manifesting itself: 

“For the first time in a presidential race, the Israel-Palestine issue will consist of something other than two men squabbling over who will more rapidly overrule the State Department and absolutely positively move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (I note that although he is sticking pretty much to Zionism’s script as all candidates must when running for office – all offices not just the highest – Obama has already indicated that he does not accept that Likud and Israel are synonymous). 

“A welcome corollary will be realization that there are different ways for Americans to be “pro-Israel” and push back against the view that being pro-Israel means supporting the right of the Jewish state to lord it over 5 million Palestinians in conditions increasingly seen as resembling South Africa apartheid. The alternative view won’t sweep the country, but it will migrate from its present home on university campuses and liberal Protestant churches into the wider body politic.” 

And finally will come recognition, McConnell wrote, that “the Israel lobby’s power to dominate the American debate is beginning to weaken.” 

The reason why I agree with McConnell can be simply stated. In the last few years, and for the first time ever, Zionism’s version of the history of the making and sustaining of conflict in and over Palestine has started to be exposed for the propaganda nonsense it is. And that is thanks in large part to the work and courage of Israel’s “new” or “revisionist” historians. (The terms “new” and “revisionist” in this context are euphemisms. The more accurate or proper adjective to describe Israel’s truth-telling professors of history – Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe are the giants in their field – is honest. Am I suggesting that before them Israel’s historians were dishonest by default if not design? Yes, I most certainly am). The task of telling the truth of history is also being assisted by a bottom-up media revolution made possible by the internet. 

Zionism’s narrative, upon which the first and still existing draft of Judeo-Christian history is constructed, is rooted in denial of ethnic cleansing. (The most comprehensive and fully documented work on this subject is Ilan Pappe’s latest book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine). 

There are people who’ll say that what’s done is done. Israel, no matter how it was created, exists. But that’s not the point. There is not a snowball’s chance in hell of a real peace process unless and until the Jews, and Israelis especially, are prepared to acknowledge the wrong done to the Arabs of Palestine by Zionism. 

Zionism’s denial of ethnic cleansing is underpined by two great propaganda lies.  

The first is that poor little Israel has lived in constant danger of annihilation – the “driving into the sea” of its Jews. The truth of history is that Israel’s existence has never, ever, been in danger from any combination of Arab force. Not in 1948/49. Not in 1967. And not even in 1973. Zionism’s assertion to the contrary was the cover which allowed Israel to get away where it mattered most, America and Western Europe, with presenting its aggression as self-defence and itself as the victim when, actually, it was and is the oppressor. 

The second great lie of Zionism’s version of history was that Israel had “no partners” for peace. On this account the truth of history includes the fact, for example, that Arafat the pragmatist opened the door to a genuine and viable two-state solution as far back as 1979, more than a quarter of a century ago. And long before that, another example, Eygpt’s President Nasser, who never had any intention of fighting Israel to liberate Palestine, authorised, and himself took part in, secret, exploratory exchanges with Israel in the hope of making an accommodation with it. (Avi Shlaim’s magnificent book, THE IRON WALL, Israel and the Arab World, which is informed in part by Avi’s access to de-classified Israeli state papers, leaves no room to doubt that it was Israel’s leaders, not Arab leaders, who never missed an opportunity to close the door to peace). 

Professors Mearsheimer and Walt (the distinguished authors of The Israel Lobby) have declared that the best way of dealing with the lobby is “to encourage a more open debate… in order to correct existing myths about the Middle East and to force groups in the lobby to defend their positions in the face of well informed opposition.” (My emphasis added). 

The problem for Zionism (as I’m sure Mearsheimer and Walt know) is that its positions are indefensible when they are challenged by those who are armed with the documented facts and truth of history. And that’s why the Zionist lobby is beginning to lose its grip. 

My very dear friend Ilan Pappe told me that Zionism was more worried by my book than any other because of its title, which, he agreed, represents a great and profound truth in seven words. The more the citizens of the mainly Gentile Judeo-Christian or Western world become aware that Judaism and Zionism are opposites, the less Zionism’s propaganda maestros will be able to suppress informed and honest debate with the charge, almost always false and malicious, that criticism of Israel is a manifestation of anti-Semitism. 

Ilan also offered me this observation:  

“Zionism’s main defense is not money and military might but a wall of propaganda lies. If one or two of the main bricks in this wall can be dislodged, the whole thing might collapse faster than any of us would dare to imagine.”  

At the time of writing, as in the past, the mainstream media, almost all publishing houses and virtually all politicians are still too frightened of offending Zionism to come to grips with the truth of history as it relates to the making and sustaining of conflict in and over Palestine; but despite this complicity in Zionism’s suppression of the truth of history, one or two of the main bricks in Zionism’s wall of propaganda lies are in the process of being dislodged.  

So what are the implications if the Zionist lobby really is beginning to lose its grip? 

The short answer is that the next American president will be more free than any of his predecessors to use the leverage he has to require Israel to behave in accordance with international law, and to be serious about peace in accordance with the will of the organised international community as expressed in the spirit as well as the letter of UN resolutions. (If I was writing a speech for the next president, I’d having him saying something like the following to Israel. Until now there have been two sets of rules for the behaviour of nations – one for all the nations of the world excluding only Israel, and one exclusively for Israel. This double-standard is no longer acceptable to the peoples and governments of  the world). 

If the next American president (or possibly his successor) was prepared to require Israel to be serious about peace on terms which the vast majority of Palestinians and almost all other Arabs and Muslims everywhere could accept,  I think that what would actually happen would be determined by how the Jews of the world, and Jewish Americans especially, responded. 

Because the Zionist lobby is beginning to lose its grip, and does not anyway represent the majority of Jewish Americans, it’s my guess that most of them would say, perhaps not out loud: “We are Americans first, and if our president deems it to be in our national interest that leverage be used to require Israel to be serious about peace, so be it.” 

But that would be mere acquiescence and it would not necessarily be enough. The hardest core Zionist leadership in Israel, political and military, is quite capable of telling the whole world, including the president of America, to go to hell. Why do I say that? 

Many years ago, in private conversation, I asked General Moshe Dayan, Israel’s one-eyed warlord, why Israel had nuclear weapons. I said we both knew Israel didn’t need them vis-à-vis the Arabs. Dayan replied as follows. “Ben-Gurion was not stupid. I’m not stupid. We know how international politics work. We know that a day could come when even our best friends will want us to do something that we would not consider to be in Israel’s best interests.” Dayan meant, and obviously did not want to be more explicit, that if ever a day came when an American president said to Israel, “You must do this,” Israel could say, “Mr.President, don’t push us further than we are prepared to go because, if you do, we will be prepared to use all the weapons at our disposal.” (I am sometimes asked if I think that Bush and Blair would have invaded Iraq if Saddam Hussein had had nuclear weapons. My answer is always “No”.)

My main point in summary is this. Even if the Zionist lobby really is losing its grip, and even if, as a consequence, an American president feels himself free enough to use the leverage he has to require Israel to be serious about peace on terms almost all Palestinians, most other Arabs and Muslims everywhere could accept, a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict may still not be possible unless the Jews of the world, and Jewish Americans especially, end their silence on the matter of Zionism’s crimes and use all of the influence with the Jews of Israel. 

Footnote:  The day that Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews can be published in America, and reviewed by the mainstream media, is that day that I will say, without fear of contradiction, that the power of the Zionist lobby has been broken.


Secular Jews and the ‘Jewish State’

Lynne Stewart’s Long Struggle for Justice by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, April 3, 2008

On April 9, 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft made a symbolic visit to “Ground Zero.” While in New York, he held a well-publicized press conference at the US Attorney’s Office and used the occasion for an indictment. Four individuals were named on charges of conspiracy and materially aiding a terrorist organization. One of them was long-time civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart. On the same day, FBI agents arrested her at her home and illegally seized documents there and from her office that are protected by attorney-client privilege.

Continue reading

Garden Girl TV: Vertical Gardening (videos)

Dandelion Salad


Patti Moreno, the Garden Girl, shows you techniques to get more out of limited landspace, by growing up.

Check out her website at

Added: March 29, 2008

Added: April 03, 2008


NightShades: Potato and Tomato (video)

Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza (1999)


Rectification: “Russian Intelligence Sees U.S. Military Buildup on Iran Border” by Michel Chossudovsky

Dandelion Salad

Note: I also posted the article from ICH but have since removed it.  I read it the day it was published on ICH but didn’t feel comfortable with it for some reason, so I posted it 3 days later after three other writers referenced it.  I should have gone with my initial feelings.  I do apologize to my readers who read the article on Dandelion Salad.  ~ Lo

by Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research, April 2, 2008

The internet has been quoting an article entitled “Russian Intelligence Sees U.S. Military Buildup on Iran Border” allegedly published by RIA Novosti on March 27, 2008.

The date of this article is mistaken. Information Clearing House posted it on March 29, 2008. The original date of publication by Ria Novosti is March 27, 2007.

In the last few days, this text posted on The Information Clearing House has been viewed as a current news item.

It has been quoted profusely in a number of articles, several of which point to an imminent military build-up directed against Iran.

What the authors of these articles have failed to do is to crosscheck the source and date of this Ria Novosti article. Moreover, they have not verified the history of the US-NATO Israeli build-up including the deployment of naval forces in the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The article quotes Col-General Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Russian Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, who stated in March 2007 that “the Pentagon is planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran’s military infrastructure in the near future.”

The article also states that: “the USS John C. Stennis, with a crew of 3,200 and around 80 fixed-wing aircraft, including F/A-18 Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, eight support ships and four nuclear submarines are heading for the Gulf, where a similar group led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has been deployed since December 2006.”

The fact of the matter is that in late March 2008, the USS John C. Stennis had returned to Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton, Washington State, arriving on the morning of March 28, 2008, “after five days of sea trials following six months in dry dock.” ( )

The Ria Novosti article was not published on March 27, 2008 but a year earlier on March 27, 2007.

It was posted on the Global Research website on March 28, 2007. It was one among several articles which we published on the US military build-up in the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The US-NATO-Israeli threat to conduct a war directed against Iran is nonetheless real.

An understanding of this threat cannot be based on an isolated and outdated news item. It requires a historical review and understanding of a complex process.

The military planning as well as the buildup directed against Iran has taken place over a period of more than four years. In recent developments which are of significance in assessing US sponsored war plans directed Iran,  Israel has been hosting a NATO naval exercise, involving six NATO frigates, which arrived in Haifa on March 31st for a joint drill with Israeli Navy missile boats.

“During the visit, a demonstration of naval capabilities took place, as well as an exchange of information on a range of topics,” the Israeli military said in a statement. Israel has been shoring up ties recently with NATO as part of preparations for any future showdown with Iran.”

For further reference on the US and allied military buildup directed  Iran and Syria, see

The Global Research Iran Dossier


RIA Novosti – Russia – Russian intelligence sees U.S. military … (original March 27, 2007 article)

Global Research:  Russian intelligence sees U.S. military buildup on Iran border  (March 28, 2007)

Mistaken date on Information Clearing House: Russian intelligence sees U.S. military buildup on Iran border  (March 29, 2008)

Misquoted date and analysis on a host of other websites. See Search Google

Green Zone Defeat? ‘Handed Over’ to a Government Called Sadr by Ali al-Fadhily & Dahr Jamail

Dandelion Salad

by Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail
Global Research, April 2, 2008
Inter Press Service

Occupation forces no longer control the Green Zone

BAGHDAD, Apr 2 (IPS) – Despite the huge media campaign led by U.S. officials and a complicit corporate-controlled media to convince the world of U.S. success in Iraq, emerging facts on the ground show massive failure.

The date March 25 of this year will be remembered as the day of truth through five years of occupation.

“Mehdi army militias controlled all Shia and mixed parts of Baghdad in no time,” a Baghdad police colonel, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. “Iraqi army and police forces as well as Badr and Dawa militias suddenly disappeared from the streets, leaving their armoured vehicles for Mehdi militiamen to drive around in joyful convoys that toured many parts of Baghdad before taking them to their stronghold of Sadr City in the east of Baghdad.”

The police colonel was speaking of the recent clashes between members of the Shia Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army, the largest militia in the country, and members of the Iraqi government forces, that are widely known to comprise members of a rival Shia militia, the Badr Organisation.

Dozens of militiamen from both sides were killed in clashes that broke out in Baghdad, Basra, Kut, Samawa, Hilla and most of the Iraqi Shia southern provinces between the Mehdi Army and other militias supported by the U.S., Iran and the Iraqi government.

The Badr Organisation militia is headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who is also head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) that dominates the government. The Dawa Party is headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The number of civilians killed and injured in the clashes is still unknown. Iraqi government offices continue to keep largely silent about the events.

“Every resident of Basra knew the situation would explode any minute between these oil thieves, and that Basra would suffer another wave of militia war,” Salman Kathum, a doctor and former resident of Basra who fled for Baghdad last month told IPS.

For months now there has been a struggle between the Sadr Movement, the SIIC, and the al-Fadhila Party for control of the south, and particularly Basra.

Falah Shenshal, an MP allied to al-Sadr, told al-Jazeera Mar. 26 that al-Maliki was targeting political opponents. “They say they target outlaw gangs, but why do they start with the areas where the sons of the Sadr movement are located? This is a political battle…for the political interests of one party (al-Maliki’s Dawa party) because the local elections are coming soon (due later this year).”

The fighting came just as the U.S. military announced the death of their 4,000th soldier in Iraq, and on the heels of a carefully crafted PR campaign designed to show that the “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq has successfully improved the situation on the ground.

“I wonder what lies General David Petraeus (the U.S. forces commander in Iraq) will fabricate this time,” Malek Shakir, a journalist in Baghdad told IPS. “The 25th March events revealed the true failure of the U.S. occupation project in Iraq. More complications are expected in the coming days.”

Maliki has himself been in Basra to lead a surge against Mehdi Army militias while the U.S. sent forces to surround Sadr City in an attempt to support their Badr and Dawa allies.

News of limited clashes and air strikes have come from Sadr City, with unofficial reports of many casualties amongst civilians. Curfew in many parts of Baghdad and in four southern provinces had made life difficult already.

“This failure takes Iraq to point zero and even worse,” Brigadier-General Kathum Alwan of the Iraqi army told IPS in Baghdad. “We must admit that the formation of our forces was wrong, as we saw how our officers deserted their posts, leaving their vehicles for militias.”

Alwan added, “Not a single unit of our army and police stood for their duty in Baghdad, leaving us wondering what to do. Most of the officers who left their posts were members of Badr brigades and the Dawa Party, who should have been most faithful to Maliki’s government.”

The Green Zone of Baghdad where the U.S. embassy and the Iraqi government and parliament buildings are located, was hit by missiles. General Petraeus appeared at a press conference to accuse Iran of being behind the shelling of the zone that is supposed to be the safest area in Iraq. At least one U.S. citizen was killed in the attacks, and two others were injured.

“The Green Zone looked deserted as most U.S. and Iraqi personnel were ordered to take shelter deep underground,” an engineer who works for a foreign company in the zone told IPS. “It seemed that this area too was under curfew. No place in Iraq is safe any more.”

Further complicating matters for the occupiers of Iraq, the U.S.-backed Awakening groups, largely comprised of former resistance fighters, are now going on strike to demand overdue payment from the U.S. military.

Ali, IPS correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East

© Copyright Ali al-Fadhily, Inter Press Service, 2008
The url address of this article is: