Meditation Focus #128

Shifting the World from War-Making to Planet-Healing


Hello,

What follows is the 128th Meditation Focus suggested for the next 2 weeks beginning Sunday, April 3, 2005.

SHIFTING THE WORLD FROM WAR-MAKING TO PLANET-HEALING

1. Summary
2. Meditation times
3. More information related to this Meditation Focus

THANK YOU FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE IN PASSING THIS ON TO OTHERS



1) SUMMARY

Humans are damaging the planet at an unprecedented rate and raising risks of abrupt collapses in nature that could spur disease, deforestation and "dead zones" in the seas, an international report said on Wednesday. The study, by 1,360 experts in 95 nations, said a rising human population had polluted or over-exploited two thirds of the ecological systems on which life depends, ranging from clean air to fresh water, in the past 50 years. "At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning," said the 45-member board of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. "Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted," it said. Ten to 30 percent of mammal, bird and amphibian species were already threatened with extinction, according to the assessment, the biggest review of the planet's life support systems. "Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable time in human history, largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fiber and fuel," the report said. "This has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on earth," it added. More land was changed to cropland since 1945, for instance, than in the 18th and 19th centuries combined. "The harmful consequences of this degradation could grow significantly worse in the next 50 years," it said. The report was compiled by experts, including from U.N. agencies and international scientific and development organizations. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the study "shows how human activities are causing environmental damage on a massive scale throughout the world, and how biodiversity -- the very basis for life on earth -- is declining at an alarming rate."

This excerpt taken from Report: Human Damage to Earth Worsening Fast illustrates quite well the clear and present danger our world is facing, and is merely summarizing a vast amount of research and years of warnings and recommendations by a multitude of non-governmental organizations and a wide range of others authorities as to what must be urgently done to steer our civilization away from the treacherous waters we are all in right now. The consensus cannot be stronger regarding the direct responsibility humanity as a whole, and every individual person, corporation, government and human institution bear for the sorry state of our planetary ecosystems, and the need for every actor of society, everywhere on Earth, to become involved in devising the means and strategies to correct the imbalances we have created, so as to reset our world onto a sustainable path of development and progress. The survival of Life on Earth in all the magnificently diverse and intricately interconnected ways we have come to appreciate and cherish should now become the utmost priority for every single human being. Nothing should come in the way of this absolutely urgent reassessment of all our priorities so as to make possible, in the swiftest possible manner, the necessary and often profound changes that must be implemented without further dithering.

And yet, what are most people doing so far to contribute to the solutions? Very little. What steps most governments have taken besides talking about the problems? Very few. What example has been set by the government of the United States, a country whose profligate way of life has led to wasting far more than its fair share of the world's resources? A very bad one. Not content with refusing to join the world community in combatting global warming and with entrusting the responsibility to care for its environment to people in most cases in cahoot with the very industries responsible for creating the problems in the first place, the current U.S. administration has led its citizens, through malicious means, down a path of war that can only be described as destructive, barbaric and inhumane. Reports from Iraq about countless instances of torture, large scale destruction with highly radioactive weapons and other illegal weapons, particularly during their campaign to obliterate the resistance in Fallujah over 4 months ago, and the reported death of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians, as well as the increased malnutrition of Iraqi children as a direct result of the devastation and occupation of this country, all point to a situation that has been both a grave concern for most people on Earth, but which is also yet another example showing how skewed priorities in the face of so many other more pressing needs by this and a number of other governments wasting precious resources into wars of conquest and gargantuan "defense" expenditures detract and prevent proper investments into taking care of the real, vital priorities for this planet and humanity as a whole.

Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks, and especially in synchronous attunement at the usual time this Sunday and the following Sunday, to contribute in instilling into everyone's mind and heart the faith in our ability to successfully face the daunting challenges we have created for ourselves, the courage to take the necessary steps to correct the course we have taken so far, and the resolve to see it through until our planet and as many species and human beings as possible are safely through the years of global healing work ahead of us. May all humans, and the heads of all corporations and all governments realize in their soul that the time has come to turn away from war and destruction and embrace a new ethic that puts the sanctity of life and the preservation of the ecological integrity of this planet above all other considerations, especially economic ones, and dedicate their considerable energies and creative skills towards co-creating a new era in which Peace, Love and Harmony will reign supreme, for the Highest Good of All.


This whole Meditation Focus has been archived for your convenience at http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus128.htm

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Daylight Saving Time will start in North America (including Mexico) on April 3rd and has begun last March 27 in most of Europe. So in the Northern hemisphere the time for the globally synchronized Sunday meditation will therefore be one hour later than during the past 6 months. Daylight Saving Time has already ended over the last week in most of the Southern hemisphere countries. So the time for the globally synchronized Sunday meditation will be one hour earlier than during the past 6 months in these countries. Details on this at http://www.timeanddate.com/time/dst2005a.html
You may also review the time chart below.



2. MEDITATION TIMES

i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes. Please dedicate the last few minutes of your Sunday meditation BOTH to the healing of the Earth as a whole and to reiterate our willingness and desire - if we so choose - to receive assistance from our space family in order to help set things on a path towards a new era of global peace, love and harmony for all. See the Earth as healthy and vibrant with life, and experience the healing of all relations as we awaken globally to the sacredness of all Life and to our underlying unity with All That Is.

ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.

These times below will correspond, this Sunday April 3, to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:

Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage * 8:00 AM -- Los Angeles * 9:00 AM -- Mexico City, San Salvador & Denver * 10:00 AM -- Houston * & Chicago * 11:00 AM -- Santo Domingo, La Paz, Caracas, New York *, Toronto *. Montreal *, Asuncion & Santiago 12:00 AM -- Halifax *, Rio de Janeiro & Montevideo 1:00 PM -- Reykjavik & Casablanca 4 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, London *, Dublin * & Lisbon * 5:00 PM -- Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Geneva *, Rome *, Berlin *, Paris * & Madrid * 6:00 PM -- Ankara *, Athens *, Helsinki * & Istanbul * & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Baghdad *, Moscow * 8:00 PM -- Tehran * 8:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 PM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington +4:00 AM

+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time.

* means the place is observing daylight saving time (DST) at the moment.

You may also check at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?day=03&month=04&year=2005&hour=16&min=0&sec=0&p1=0 to find your corresponding local time for tomorrow if a nearby city is not listed above.



3. MORE INFORMATION RELATED TO THIS MEDITATION FOCUS

This complement of information may help you to better understand the various aspects pertaining to the summary description of the subject of this Meditation Focus. It is recommended to view this information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision we wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mind-set, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of peace and healing. This complementary information is provided so that a greater knowledge of what needs healing and peace-nurturing vibrations may assist us to have an in-depth understanding of what is at stake and thus achieve a greater collective effectiveness.

PART I - CONTENT

1. Dim future for life on Earth - study
2. The state of the world? It is on the brink of disaster
3. Hot air and global warming

PART II - CONTENT

1. News from Falluja
2. Diving Into Falluja
3. Another Day In The Empire
4. Children 'starving' in new Iraq
5. Commentary: Iraq's tipping point

Also recommended to your attention

Global Love Day
http://www.thelovefoundation.com/Global_Love_Day.htm
http://www.thelovefoundation.com
Think: Global Love Day - Feel: Love Begins With Me - Remember: May 1, 2005




1.

From: http://www.canoe.ca/NewsStand/EdmontonSun/News/2005/03/30/976551-sun.html

Dim future for life on Earth - study (March 30, 2005)

'Living on borrowed time,' 1,300 researchers conclude

OTTAWA -- Human activity is putting so much pressure on ecosystems that the survival of life on Earth cannot be taken for granted, says a UN study synthesizing the work of some 1,300 researchers from 95 countries. Fifteen of 24 global ecosystems are in decline, says the Millennium Assessment, described as the most comprehensive assessment ever of the natural systems that sustain planetary life.

"Nearly two thirds of the services provided by nature to human kind are found to be in decline worldwide. In effect, the benefits reaped from our engineering of the planet have been achieved by running down natural capital assets.

"In many cases it is literally a matter of living on borrowed time. By using up supplies of fresh groundwater faster than they can be recharged, for example, we are depleting assets at the expense of our children." Among the findings of the four-year study:

- Global fish landings have been declining since the 1980s and in many areas are a tenth of what they were before the introduction of industrial fishing.

- Up to a quarter of the water supplied to human communities is being used in larger quantities than local river systems can provide. The shortfall is being mined from underground sources that are not replaced.

- Deforestation and loss of wetlands has reduced protection against pollution and extreme events such as floods and tsunamis.

- A decline in the number of insects and birds available to carry pollen for flowering plants to reproduce has serious implications for many crops.

- Poor farming practices have led to desertification in dry areas of the world where two billion people live.

- The majority of wildlife species are declining in abundance; 12% of birds, 25% of mammals and 32% of amphibians are threatened with extinction over the next century.

- Agricultural subsidies have directly encouraged degradation of natural systems, encouraging farmers to put unnecessary pressure on the land by stripping out valuable features such as swamps.

"At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning," says a summary of findings from the four-year research project, released yesterday. "Human activity is putting so much strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystem to support future generations can no longer be taken for granted."

The report warns that gradual environmental changes can lead to "tipping points" as happened with the Atlantic cod fishery.

"The living machinery of Earth has a tendency to move from gradual to catastrophic change with little warning. The buildup of nitrogen and phosphorous in lakes and estuaries can continue for years, for example, before suddenly triggering the explosive growth of toxic algae that poison water supplies."




2.

From: http://news.independent.co.uk/world/science_technology/story.jsp?story=624667

The state of the world? It is on the brink of disaster

An authoritative study of the biological relationships vital to maintaining life has found disturbing evidence of man-made degradation. Steve Connor reports

30 March 2005

Planet Earth stands on the cusp of disaster and people should no longer take it for granted that their children and grandchildren will survive in the environmentally degraded world of the 21st century. This is not the doom-laden talk of green activists but the considered opinion of 1,300 leading scientists from 95 countries who will today publish a detailed assessment of the state of the world at the start of the new millennium.

The report does not make jolly reading. The academics found that two-thirds of the delicately-balanced ecosystems they studied have suffered badly at the hands of man over the past 50 years.

The dryland regions of the world, which account for 41 per cent of the earth's land surface, have been particularly badly damaged and yet this is where the human population has grown most rapidly during the 1990s.

Slow degradation is one thing but sudden and irreversible decline is another. The report identifies half a dozen potential "tipping points" that could abruptly change things for the worse, with little hope of recovery on a human timescale.

Even if slow and inexorable degradation does not lead to total environmental collapse, the poorest people of the world are still going to suffer the most, according to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which drew on 22 national science academies from around the world.

Walt Reid, the leader of the report's core authors, warned that unless the international community took decisive action the future looked bleak for the next generation. "The bottom line of this assessment is that we are spending earth's natural capital, putting such strain on the natural functions of earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted," Dr Reid said.

"At the same time, the assessment shows that the future really is in our hands. We can reverse the degradation of many ecosystem services over the next 50 years, but the changes in policy and practice required are substantial and not currently under way," he said.

The assessment was carried out over the past three years and has been likened to the prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - set up to investigate global warming - for its expertise in the many specialisms that make up the broad church of environmental science.

In summary, the scientists concluded that the planet had been substantially "re-engineered" in the latter half of the 20th century because of the pressure placed on the earth's natural resources by the growing demands of a larger human population.

"Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than at any time in human history, largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber and fibre," the reports says.

The full costs of this are only now becoming apparent. Some 15 of the 24 ecosystems vital for life on earth have been seriously degraded or used unsustainably - an ecosystem being defined as a dynamic complex of plants, animals and micro-organisms that form a functional unit with the non-living environment in which the coexist.

The scale of the changes seen in the past few decades has been unprecedented. Nearly one-third of the land surface is now cultivated, with more land being converted into cropland since 1945 than in the whole of the 18th and 19th centuries combined.

The amount of water withdrawn from rivers and lakes for industry and agriculture has doubled since 1960 and there is now between three and six times as much water held in man-made reservoirs as there is flowing naturally in rivers.

Meanwhile, the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that has been released into the environment as a result of using farm fertilisers has doubled in the same period . More than half of all the synthetic nitrogen fertiliser ever used on the planet has been used since 1985.

This sudden and unprecedented release of free nitrogen and phosphorus - important mineral nutrients for plant growth - has triggered massive blooms of algae in the freshwater and marine environments. This is identified as a potential "tipping point" that can suddenly destroy entire ecosystems. "The Millennium Assessment finds that excessive nutrient loading is one of the major problems today and will grow significantly worse in the coming decades unless action is taken," Dr Reid said.

"Surprisingly, though, despite a major body of monitoring information and scientific research supporting this finding, the issue of nutrient loading barely appears in policy discussions at global levels and only a few countries place major emphasis on the problem.

"This issue is perhaps the area where we find the biggest 'disconnect' between a major problem related to ecosystem services and the lack of policy action in response," he said.

Abrupt changes are one of the most difficult things to predict yet their impact can be devastating. But is environmental collapse inevitable?

"Clearly, the dual trends of continuing degradation of most ecosystem services and continuing growth in demand for these same services cannot continue," Dr Reid said.

"But the assessment shows that over the next 50 years, the risk is not of some global environmental collapse, but rather a risk of many local and regional collapses in particular ecosystem services. We already see those collapses occurring - fisheries stocks collapsing, dead zones in the sea, land degradation undermining crop production, species extinctions," he said.

Between 1960 and 2000, the world population doubled from three billion to six billion. At the same time, the global economy increased more than six-fold and the production of food and the supply of drinking water more than doubled, with the consumption of timber products increasing by more than half.

Meanwhile, human activity has directly affected the diversity of wild animals and plants. There have been about 100 documented extinctions over the past century but scientists believe that the rate at which animals and plants are dying off is about 1,000 times higher than natural, background levels.

"Humans are fundamentally and to a significant extent irreversibly changing the diversity of life on earth and most of these changes represent a loss of biodiversity," the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment says.

The distribution of species across the world is becoming more homogenous as some unique animals and plants die out and other, alien species are introduced into areas in which they would not normally live, often with devastating impact.

For example, the Baltic Sea contains 100 non-native species, of which about one-third come from the Great Lakes of North America. Meanwhile, a similar proportion of the 170 non-native species found in the Great Lakes come from the Baltic.

"In other words, the species in any one region of the world are becoming more similar to other regions.... Some 10 to 30 per cent of mammals, birds and amphibians are currently threatened with extinction. Genetic diversity has declined globally, particularly among cultivated species," the report says.

Agricultural intensification, which brought about the green revolution that helped to feed the world in the latter part of the 20th century, has increased the tendency towards the loss of genetic diversity. "Currently 80 per cent of wheat area in developing countries and three-quarters of all rice planted in Asia is now planted to modern varieties," the report says. Dr Reid said that the authors of the assessment were most worried about the state of the earth's drylands - an area covering 41 per cent of the land surface and home to a total of two billion people, many of them the poorest in the world.

Drylands are areas where crop production or pasture for livestock is severely limited by rainfall. Some 90 per cent of the world's dryland regions occur in developing countries where the availability of fresh water is a growing problem.

One-third of the world's people live in dryland regions that have access to only 8 per cent of the world's renewable supply of water, the scientists found. "We were particularly alarmed by the evidence of strong linkages between the degradation of ecosystem services in drylands and poverty in those regions," Dr Reid said.

"Moreover, while historically, population growth has been highest in either urban areas or the most productive ecosystems such as cultivated lands, this pattern changed in the 1990s and the highest percentage rate of growth is now in drylands - ecosystems with the lowest potential to support that growth.

"These problems of ecosystem degradation and the harm it causes for human well-being clearly help set the stage for the conflict that we see in many dryland regions including parts of Africa and central Asia," he said.

Poor people living in dryland regions are at the greatest risk of environmental collapse. Many of them already live unsustainably - between 10 and 20 per cent of the soil in the drylands are eroded or degraded.

"Development prospects in dryland regions of developing countries are especially dependent on actions to slow and reverse the degradation of ecosystems," the Millennium Assessment says.

So what can be done in a century when the human population is expected to increase by a further 50 per cent?

The board of directors of the Millennium Assessment said in a statement: "The overriding conclusion of this assessment is that it lies within the power of human societies to ease the strains we are putting on the nature services of the planet, while continuing to use them to bring better living standards to all.

"Achieving this, however, will require radical changes in the way nature is treated at every level of decision-making and new ways of co-operation between government, business and civil society. The warning signs are there for all of us to see. The future now lies in our hands," it said.

Asked what we should do now and what we should plan to do over the next 50 years, Dr Reid replied that there must be a fundamental reappraisal of how we view the world's natural resources. "The heart of the problem is this: protection of nature's services is unlikely to be a priority so long as they are perceived to be free and limitless by those using them," Dr Reid said.

"We simply must establish policies that require natural costs to be taken into account for all economic decisions," he added.

"There is a tremendous amount that can be done in the short term to reduce degradation - for example, the causes of some of the most significant problems such as fisheries collapse, climate change, and excessive nutrient loading are clear - many countries have policies in place that encourage excessive harvest, use of fossil fuels, or excessive fertilisation of crops.

"But as important as these short-term fixes are, over the long term humans must both enhance the production of many services and decrease our consumption of others. That will require significant investments in new technologies and significant changes in behaviour," he explained.

Many environmentalists would agree, and they would like politicians to go much further.

"The Millennium Assessment cuts to the heart of one of the greatest challenges facing humanity," Roger Higman, of Friends of the Earth, said.

"That is, we cannot maintain high standards of living, let alone relieve poverty, if we don't look after the earth's life-support systems," Mr Higman said.

"Yet the assessment hasn't gone far enough in specifying the radical solutions needed. At the end of the day, if we are to respect the limits imposed by nature, and ensure the well-being of all humanity, we must manage the global economy to produce a fairer distribution of the earth's resources," he added.

THE TIPPING POINTS TO CATASTROPHE

NEW DISEASES

As population densities increase and living space extends into once pristine forests, the chances of an epidemic of a new infectious agent grows. Global travel accentuates the threat, and the emergence of Sars and bird flu are prime examples of diseases moving from animals to humans.

ALIEN SPECIES

The introduction of an invasive species - whether animal, plant or microbe - can lead to a rapid change in ecosystems. Zebra mussels introduced into North America led to the extinction of native clams and the comb jellyfish caused havoc to 26 major fisheries species in the Black Sea.

ALGAL BLOOMS

A build up of man-made nutrients in the environment has already led to the threshold being reached when algae blooms. This can deprive fish and other wildlife of oxygen as well as producing toxic substances that are a danger to drinking water.

CORAL REEF COLLAPSE

Reefs that were dominated by corals have suddenly changed to being dominated by algae, which have taken advantage of the increases in nutrient levels running off from terrestrial sources. Many of Jamaica's coral reefs have now become algal dominated.

FISHING STOCKS

Overfishing can, and has, led to a collapse in stocks. A threshold is reached when there are too few adults to maintain a viable population. This occurred off the east coast of Newfoundland in 1992 when its stock of Atlantic cod vanished.

CLIMATE CHANGE

In a warmer world, local vegetation or land cover can change, causing warming to become worse. The Sahel region of North Africa depends on rainfall for its vegetation. Small changes in rain can result in loss of vegetation, soil erosion and further decreases in rainfall.




3.

From: http://omega.twoday.net/stories/592586/

Hot air and global warming

March 26, 2005

BOSTON - Every time the world calls for action on climate change, the United States emits more White House gases. The latest puff came from James Connaughton, the director of environmental quality, during last week's conference of 20 nations that met in London to try once again to make global warming a global priority.

At the conference, Gordon Brown, Britain's finance minister, said: "Climate change is a consequence of the buildup of greenhouse gases over the past 200 years in the atmosphere, and virtually all these emissions came from the rich countries. Indeed, we became rich through those emissions." Connaughton's response, in a BBC interview, was, "We're still working on the issue of causation."

Brown said, "We now have sufficient evidence that human-made climate change is the most far-reaching and almost certainly the most threatening of all the environmental challenges facing us." Connaughton's response as to "the extent to which humans are a factor," was, "They may be."

Brown said, "The industrialized countries must take responsibility first in reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases." Connaughton complained instead that the Kyoto target for the United States to reduce emissions "was so unreasonable ... that the only way we could have met it was to shift energy-intensive manufacturing to other countries."

Two days after dismissing coalition building, the United States went back to emissions building. The Senate, by a vote of 51-49, finally approved oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. On efforts to stop global warming, Connaughton said, "We are trying now to find a portfolio in which three words are important: technology, technology and technology."

He meant drilling, drilling, drilling. Two years ago the National Academies of Science said that even with improved technologies, drilling on the north slope of Alaska has degraded the tundra, altered wildlife patterns and resulted in social problems that blunt claims of unqualified economic progress. Many scientists have said that we would be better off if we simply made our cars more fuel-efficient. But Congress and the White House, imprisoned by the oil and auto lobbies, refuse to use existing technologies to raise efficiency standards.

The Alaska vote paralleled another Senate action to deny an additional $1 billion for Amtrak, when studies show that well-developed rail systems can slash traffic and thus global-warming pollution. The United States, with 4 percent of the world's population, consumes a quarter of the world's oil and produces a quarter of its greenhouse gases. Yet when Brown said that the industrialized countries must take responsibility first, the United States became the most immature adolescent on Earth, doing precisely the opposite of what it needs to do.

Earlier in the month, the former chief scientific adviser to the British government, Lord May of Oxford, bluntly compared George W. Bush to a modern-day Nero. Last fall, Tony Blair said: "If what the science tells about climate change is correct, then unabated it will result in catastrophic consequences for our world. The science almost certainly is correct."

But Nero and his fiddlers won't hear any of that. Asked last month about the science of global warming, Connaughton said, "There are many different views."

The science ceased to have many views years ago. The very first sentence in the executive summary of the 2001 National Academies of Science report on climate change begins, "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities. ..." The report further said, "Global warming could well have serious adverse societal and ecological impacts by the end of this century." The science continues to choke under the White House effect.

---

See also:

Secretary-General's video message to launch the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
http://www.un.org/apps/sg/sgstats.asp?nid=1371
New York, 30 March 2005 - Four years ago, a truly inspiring group of scholars and environmental leaders embarked on an unprecedented effort: the first comprehensive global evaluation of the world's major ecosystems.We now have the product of their labours: the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. The report describes the vital services that ecosystems provide. It shows how human activities are causing environmental change on a massive scale throughout the world, and how biodiversity -- the very basis for life on earth -- is declining at an alarming rate. But it also tells us how we can change course. It sets out common-sense strategies for protecting species and habitats, and preserving this natural capital for development. It offers tools for managing the environment, particularly in poor countries where this has to be combined with the quest for development. It identifies the changes in institutions and policies that will be needed if we are to deal with the root causes of environmental degradation. And it fills a global knowledge gap. Only by understanding the environment and how it works, can we make the necessary decisions to protect it. Only by valuing all our precious natural and human resources, can we hope to build a sustainable future. World leaders have pledged to reduce the loss of biological diversity by 2010. They have vowed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. We must hold them to these promises. And each of us must do his or her part. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is an unprecedented contribution to our global mission of development, sustainability and peace. I thank all involved for this gift to future generations. Thank you very much.

Two-thirds of world's resources 'used up' (March 30, 2005)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/science/story/0,12996,1447921,00.html
The human race is living beyond its means. A report backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries - some of them world leaders in their fields - today warns that the almost two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure. The study contains what its authors call "a stark warning" for the entire world. The wetlands, forests, savannahs, estuaries, coastal fisheries and other habitats that recycle air, water and nutrients for all living creatures are being irretrievably damaged. In effect, one species is now a hazard to the other 10 million or so on the planet, and to itself. (...) In 1997, a team of biologists and economists tried to put a value on the "business services" provided by nature - the free pollination of crops, the air conditioning provided by wild plants, the recycling of nutrients by the oceans. They came up with an estimate of $33 trillion, almost twice the global gross national product for that year. But after what today's report, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, calls "an unprecedented period of spending Earth's natural bounty" it was time to check the accounts. CLIP

More related stories at: http://news.google.com/?ncl=http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/world/11262213.htm&hl=en

Global fishing crisis archived articles
http://www.guardian.co.uk/fish/archive/0,7364,349370,00.html

Conservation and endangered species
http://www.guardian.co.uk/conservation/0,13369,969535,00.html

Have your say - Is the Earth's future in danger? http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/4394581.stm
Several comments on these findings.

Study: Global Warming of Atlantic Could Hit Fish (Mar 30, 2005)
http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=VJPDBLDT4CJB4CRBAE0CFFA?type=scienceNews&storyID=8039406
LONDON (Reuters) - The potential shutdown due to climate warming of the key Atlantic Conveyor current that warms northern Europe could have a major impact on fish stocks in the region, a scientist said Wednesday. Oceanographers have predicted that the current that drags warm water from the south to the north could weaken or even come to a halt as global warming melts the Arctic polar icecap and dilutes the ocean's salinity. "A disruption of the Atlantic meridional overturning (AMO) circulation leads to a collapse of the North Atlantic plankton stocks to less than half their initial biomass," said Andreas Schmittner of Oregon State University. Writing in the science journal Nature, Schmittner said the steep drop in the plankton population was due to it becoming separated from deep water nutrient layers as the ocean current failed. To date much work has been done on the potential disruption of the Atlantic Conveyor as the climate warms by an estimated two degrees centigrade this century due to man-made greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. However, relatively little research has been published on the possible effect on the seaborne food chain which provides sustenance for millions of people. "A massive decline of plankton stocks could have catastrophic effects on fisheries and human food supply in the affected regions," Schmittner wrote. "Hence, emission pathways that lead to fast and large increases of future CO2 including the risk of a collapse or substantial reduction of the AMO should be avoided through early measures for emission reductions," he added. He said there was evidence that the current had switched on and off during the ice ages, and his modeling work indicated that ocean productivity could drop by 20 percent as plankton vanished. "These model results ... suggest that global ocean productivity is sensitive to changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation," he said. It is not confined to the northern Atlantic but has implications across the Indian, Pacific, Arabian and southern Atlantic Oceans, he added. Although the effect was most noticeable in the north Atlantic where even a partial weakening in the life-giving current caused a substantial drop in productivity, it also registered globally. "The results ... have important implications for the assessment of future greenhouse gas emission scenarios," Schmittner said.

Carbon dioxide continues its rise (31 March, 2005)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4395817.stm
Levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide have reached a new high, according to US researchers. The figures were gathered by a laboratory in Hawaii, regarded by experts as one of the most reliable in climate research. The rise in the past year is smaller than it was in the previous two years. But the trend remains upwards, as it has for every year since this set of measurements started near half a century ago. Scientists at the Mauna Loa volcano laboratory found an increase in CO2 to a record level of 378 parts per million (ppm). (...) According to Dr Tans, one significant finding is that the annual rate at which the CO2 is rising has itself increased. The growth rate over the past decade was about twice as fast as that found in the 1960s. CLIP

Pressure builds for US climate action (14 February, 2005)  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4254877.stm

On not quite getting it
http://www.oriononline.org/pages/om/05-2om/McKibben.html
When it comes to global climate disruption, the evidence for human intellectual supremacy seems less and less compelling all the time. Author Bill McKibben is wondering,"What don't cha get exactly?"

'10 YEARS TO SAVE PLANET' (March 15)
http://www.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,31500-13312011,00.html
The world's top industrialised nations have been warned they have just 10 years to save the world from global warming. The environment campaign group WWF has told ministers representing the G8 organisation to act now.It says the poorest countries are likely to pay a high price if nothing is done about the rise in the level of greenhouse gases.The group claims that if present levels of carbon monoxide levels are not reduced the temperatures around the world may rise by two degrees Celsius. The change would leave many countries in Africa, India and Mexico facing water and food problems. Jennifer Morgan, the WWF's director of Climate Change Programme, said: "This generation of politicians is the last generation who have it in their power to secure the future of our planet. to safeguard the health and livelihoods of millions of people and the habitats that sustain their lives. "History will not forgive them if they fail to act." The effect of global warming around the planet has recently been highlighted by the reduction in ice on the Himalayan mountain range. And the ice caps in Antarctica are also shrinking according to scientists.

Nature's Crisis - by DAVE FOREMAN (March 26)
http://counterpunch.com/foreman03262005.html
In my 35 years as a conservationist, I have never beheld such a bleak and depressing situation as I see today. The evidence for my despair falls into three categories: the state of Nature, the power of anticonservationists, and appeasement and weakness within the conservation and environmental movements. I fear that on some level we must recognize that this state of affairs may be inevitable and impossible to turn around. That is the coward's way out, though. The bleakness we face is all the more reason to stand tall for our values and to not flinch in the good fight. It is important for us to understand the parts and pieces of our predicament, so we might find ways to do better. I've just authored a book, Rewilding North America, which goes into considerable detail describing and trying to understand the Seven Ecological Wounds that drive the Sixth Great Extinction, which is the fundamental fact and problem in the world today. Around the world, direct killing of wildlife, habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, loss of ecological processes, invasion by exotic species and diseases, ecosystem pollution, and catastrophic climate change are worsening. We six-and-a-half-billion too-clever apes are solely to blame. Despite impressive successes here and there, the overall state of Nature continues to decline. This is simple reality, despite the scolding we hear not to be doom-and-gloomers. In the United States, the federal government has become the sworn enemy of conservation. Not only has the radical-right Presidency and Congress stopped any progress in the conservation and restoration of Nature, they are dedicated to overthrowing the twentieth century's legacy of conservation and environmental policy and programs. They are unabashedly trying to go back to the unfettered, uncaring era of the robber barons in the late nineteenth century. This revolution is both philosophical and practical. Bad as this is, the radical-right is also dedicated to shredding science, particularly biology, and time-traveling back to before the Enlightenment. CLIP



PART II

1.

Forwarded by"Lewin Nelly" lewin.nelly@wanadoo.fr>
From: Mina APTHORPEminnie.apthorpe@tele2.fr>
Sent: March 28, 2005
Subject: News from Falluja

I received this e-mail today from my friend Beena Sarwar, a documentary journalist in Pakistan. Beena forwarded it from Mark Manning, a California documentary film maker who was recently in Fallujah to talk with some of the Iraqis who managed to live through the U.S. "clean-up" (read "flattening") of that city.

Read it and weep--literally.


Dear Friends,

I have been out of touch. I have been in Iraq and would like to share a little of my story with you today.

I got back from Iraq a few weeks ago where I stayed inside the city of Falluja and lived with the refugees of that city for over two weeks. I decided to go there because it seems to be the heart of the trouble in Iraq and the place to see if any sense or peace can be found. I had also heard that the city had 250,000 citizens in it who were told to leave when my government attacked, yet there had been no stories of their situation in our media. As an American, I felt responsible for this and decided to take a look myself.

On February 10th 2005 I flew into Iraq and drove to the city of Falluja. For over two weeks I was a resident and a refugee of Falluja and I am honored and privileged for that experience. They hosted me in their homes, and cared for me because they believed that I was there to listen to them and to honestly bring home their stories to the American people. I came to Falluja without military escort or armed protection in any way. I think because of this they thought I was crazy, but they honored what they thought was courage and they trusted me. Trust means everything there and they look deep into your eyes as they decide who you are. I lived with them and listened to their stories. They told me they do not trust American journalists to accurately tell the story of Iraq. They believe that the American public does not know what is really happening there, and that if they did they would feel differently about the war. They feel that the American people are their brothers and sisters and they are asking them for help. They wanted me to tell you their story.

The horrors of war have been brought to the people of Falluja. The people there say the city had 500,000 people in it, not the 250,000 quoted by our media. The refugees told me that they were given one week notice to leave the city. After three days, they were told they could no longer drive out, they had to walk. No camps were established for them and no refugee location was given. There was no planning by the American government for the people, no food, no shelter and no water. They were just told to leave or be killed. Anyone who stayed in the city after one week would be considered a terrorist and would be killed.

For five months these people have been living in any location they could find, nothing was established for them in the surrounding areas of the Falluja countryside. They are living in tents in the mud, schools, abandoned chicken coups, burned out buildings, cars and other buildings that people were not using or where others have made room for them. The weather is bad, with much rain and it is very cold. When they were told to leave the city, it was summer and they were not dressed for this cold and many could not carry out their clothes. Some lucky children are going to school in tents and all the classes have been shortened to 2 hours per day. Food is short and they are eating what the farmers grow and the surrounding community can spare. Again, even after five months they have received no outside aid from either the American government or the new Iraqi government.

The city itself has been devastated. Most houses have been seriously damaged, with about 65% of them totally destroyed. Evidence of depleted uranium (DU) shells is everywhere. This leaves radioactive contamination behind which has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. (See note1). Unexploded ordinance is a common sight. Many residents who were there speak of chemical weapons, napalm, cluster bombs and phosphorous used by the Americans. These are all illegal weapons and considered war crimes by the international community. Many of the houses were fired, meaning that the troops burned them down after searching them. Many houses with white flags and markings stating "Family Here" were destroyed.

Some families who had nowhere to go stayed in the city during the fighting and have paid dearly. I interviewed many people who were there and their stories will live forever in my mind. Here are some samples:

· A mother whose son was killed by DU shells. He was in his bed sleeping when the shells came through the walls.

· A father who at 65 years of age was shot during a raid of his house, whose son was arrested during that raid and has not been seen since (he states that his son was not a fighter.)

· A 17 year old girl who hid under her bed with her 13 year old brother during a raid of her house and witnessed her father, her cousin, and her two sisters 18 and 19 years old, all shot to death. She hid for three more days with the dead bodies of her family and then they returned and shot her and her brother after finding them under the bed. Her brother died. She survived and told me her story.

· A Family of ten who lived through all the fighting. The kids were 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10 and 12. They were a mess. These kids will never be ok. Their faces were marked with open and oozing sores and they were exhibiting serious signs of emotional damage.

There is presently very little medical aid available to the residents and refugees, and again, no aid has been provided to the refugees in the surrounding area. The medical centers in the city have been destroyed and have not been rebuilt. The main hospital has been reopened, but to get there you have to walk, as the ambulances are still being shot by the Americans and the Iraqi National Guard. The doctors have been beaten and their lives have been threatened by the Iraqi National Guard. These are the security forces that the Americans are training. The new government has warned them not to talk to any journalists about the conditions in Falluja. They understand this threat to be very real and a direct threat on their lives and the lives of their families.

To walk to the hospital you must go through checkpoints, sometimes through fighting, and only at certain daylight hours. The checkpoints are manned by the Iraqi National Guards and they are very hostile to the residents of Falluja. When we were at the hospital, an old man died of a heart attack because he was not allowed through the checkpoint. A woman gave birth in the ambulance because they would not let the ambulance back to the hospital after 5 pm and instead turned it away with her in labor.

We delivered by hand the medical aid provided by some of you to the hospital in Falluja. Me and one Iraqi woman, WE were the international medical aid to Falluja. We carried these boxes one at a time through the checkpoints, across the bridge and into the hospital. They would not let us drive in, we had to walk these boxes in. We did it every day for a week, one box at a time.

All of the people I talked to had messages to the American people. They said: "We did not attack you! We have done nothing to the Americans. Why have you done this to us?"

These are the people who hosted me, fed me, and worried about my safety. They took care of me and I will never forget their generosity, compassion and grace. They want peace with America and they want the fighting to stop. They feel they are the ones being attacked and that the Americans are the terrorists. They see absolutely no justification for this war and were constantly asking me to explain how the American people can support these acts against a civilian population. For the first time in my life, I was ashamed to be an American.

There are so many more stories to tell you and I will be making a film about it all. But for now, what I want you to know is that I spent two weeks in the heart of the beast. The place where our government and media said is the heart of the resistance, terrorists and Saddam Loyalists, and guess what; the place is full of people. People like you and me. Kids are everywhere. The average Fallujan family has 10 people in it. That means about 8 kids. 500,000 people in the city, you do the math. That is a lot of kids.

There are fighters in Falluja. That is a fact. But they are surrounded by some 490,000 innocent people. As a country, we have decided the damage to the innocents is worth the end result, whatever that may be. These people are being shattered by this very serious situation that they have no control over. They are the innocent victims of this war.

I cannot tell you what to do. This is a story of just one area in Iraq. These stories are all over the area we call the Sunni Triangle. But I was there and lived with these people and they taught me about love, forgiveness, truth and compassion. They, after all that has happened to them, still have the ability to differentiate between the acts of an enemy and the people of a nation. They cry out to us to save them from the ignorance that has brought this destruction on them. They have suffered 33 times 9/11. Over 100, 000 Iraqis have died at the hands of the American invasion (note 2) and still they say that they have nothing against the American people. This is grace. I learned from these people how to find peace. By deeply listening to my "enemy" I have found that the real enemy is ignorance and fear and acting from that place of weakness.

I will never forget the people of Falluja.

Thank you for listening to them.

Your Friend,

Mark Manning




2.

From: http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=141x8458

Diving Into Falluja

To Hell and Back with S.B. Documentary-Maker Mark Manning

(...) By delivering medical supplies to Iraqi refugees, Manning said he was able to conduct dozens of interviews — videotaped clandestinely — amassing some 25 hours worth of tape. Speaking with Iraqi citizens - men, women and children - who’d witnessed firsthand the fury of war, Manning asked: “What do you want to tell the American people? How can there be peace between our countries? What has your life been like since the war began?”

Their answers, Manning said, were nearly always the same: Peace was possible, the Iraqis told him, but time was running out. American citizens, said the Iraqis, need to wake up to what their government is doing. Manning was told grisly accounts of Iraqi mothers killed in front of their sons, brothers in front of sisters, all at the hands of American soldiers. He also heard allegations of wholesale rape of civilians, by both American and Iraqi troops. Manning said he heard numerous reports of the second siege of Falluja that described American forces deploying — in violation of international treaties — napalm, chemical weapons, phosphorous bombs, and “bunker-busting” shells laced with depleted uranium. Use of any of these against civilians is a violation of international law.

Because of incidents like these, Manning said, the resistance has grown from about 5,000 to 250,000. “Everybody’s in the resistance. You don’t ask them directly; that wouldn’t be wise. But everybody’s in the resistance,” he said. Every single American should read this article. It is beautifully written and is quite an experience.

NOTE FROM JEAN: A Google search with "Diving Into Falluja" gave 106 results on March 29

From: http://www.independent.com/cover/Cover956.htm

Diving Into falluja

To Hell and Back with S.B. Documentary-Maker Mark Manning

story by Nick welsh • images by mark manning

March 17, 2005

Deep sea diver turned documentary filmmaker Mark Manning asked if I had six minutes to spare — a strange request, considering we’d already spent two hours talking about Manning’s recent trip to Falluja, the heart of Iraq’s bloody Sunni triangle. Six minutes more was nothing, so Manning queued up a short video of footage he’s shot in Iraq and hit play. Accompanied by the Tom Waits lament “Day After Tomorrow,” the screen filled with images of bombed-out buildings, dead animals, uniformed men with guns, twisted metal, heaps of rubble, and everywhere children — a Greek chorus of flat-eyed Fallujan kids, bearing not so much silent witness as unspoken accusation. Manning said it was the searing looks from the kids that disturbed him most. More than once, recounted Manning, he had to look away — and this after traveling thousands of miles and risking his life to look at the war in Iraq through their eyes.

Disregarding howls of protest from concerned friends and family members, Manning set out January 10 on a three-week journey that took him from sunny Santa Barbara to the burned-out remains of the insurgent stronghold of Falluja, where four American civilian contractors were dragged from their cars in March 2004 and killed on the bridge spanning the Euphrates River. The assembled crowd then burned their bodies and hacked them to pieces, hoisting their blackened body parts into the air for the world to see. “I wanted to talk to the hardest, worst-case guys,” Manning explained.

“That’s why I went to Falluja.”

---

Sandbagged at Home

For the past two years, Manning has been making a documentary, American Voices, crisscrossing the United States and asking hundreds of Americans if they could explain why, exactly, the U.S. is at war with Iraq. He was profoundly disheartened, he said, by the lack of facts and accurate information out there. Very few of the people he interviewed could back up their opinions with facts. Even worse, he realized, neither could he. That’s when he decided he had to see what life was like on the receiving end of Operation Enduring Freedom. “As an American citizen,” said Manning, “I felt personally responsible for what happened to the people of Falluja. We live in a democracy. In our democracy, my government is conducting a military operation over there in my name. To me, it doesn’t get more direct than that.”

Manning is perhaps the only American citizen, outside the employ of a major news agency, to have embedded himself in Falluja for the sake of information. It’s not the sort of thing most people — crazy or not — would contemplate, but as one friend noted, Manning “is crazy brave.” One longtime diver buddy said, “Mark’s always had big ideas and big balls, but to go to Falluja, unarmed? That’s crazy.” Manning’s own assessment of his Falluja mission amounted to a shrug: “I don’t know what you know about diving for the oil industry, but sometimes it gets a little hairy down there.”

Life in Iraq, by contrast, is always hairy. Manning spent most of his time in Falluja holing up first in a vacant house formerly occupied by American snipers, then on a farm outside town with Fallujan refugees. Manning traveled to Baghdad during the country’s historic election, then spent five days in Jordan. He credits both his ability to get around the region — and his daily survival — to Zarqa, a remarkable Iraqi woman who served as Manning’s guide through the war-torn country. (For her protection, Zarqa is not her real name.) Manning was shot at three times, detained twice, nearly kidnapped once, and said he had guns pulled on him so many times he lost count. He grew a beard, dressed in a kafia, and learned to live life as an Iraqi. “You learn that when you wake up in the morning, you don’t know if you’ll live long enough to see the sun set,” he said. “I came to peace with that.” Manning decided not to carry a weapon, instead relying on Zarqa and his stated mission of relief work to see him through.

By delivering medical supplies to Iraqi refugees, Manning said he was able to conduct dozens of interviews — videotaped clandestinely — amassing some 25 hours worth of tape. Speaking with Iraqi citizens - men, women and children - who’d witnessed firsthand the fury of war, Manning asked: “What do you want to tell the American people? How can there be peace between our countries? What has your life been like since the war began?”

Their answers, Manning said, were nearly always the same: Peace was possible, the Iraqis told him, but time was running out. American citizens, said the Iraqis, need to wake up to what their government is doing. Manning was told grisly accounts of Iraqi mothers killed in front of their sons, brothers in front of sisters, all at the hands of American soldiers. He also heard allegations of wholesale rape of civilians, by both American and Iraqi troops. Manning said he heard numerous reports of the second siege of Falluja that described American forces deploying — in violation of international treaties — napalm, chemical weapons, phosphorous bombs, and “bunker-busting” shells laced with depleted uranium. Use of any of these against civilians is a violation of international law.

Shocking stuff, but Manning’s biggest surprise came after he’d returned home to the United States. Arriving in San Francisco late on the night of February 11, Manning and Natalie Kalustian, a close friend and filmmaking partner, crashed at the Oceanside Motel on 46th Avenue. The next morning, after a stroll near Baker Beach, they returned to their car to find one of the windows smashed. Expensive camera and computer equipment lay in plain view, but only Kalustian’s purse was gone. Inside the purse, Manning said, were keys to their motel room. And when Manning and Kalustian returned to the motel, he recounted, someone had broken into their room. Even though there was jewelry and more film equipment lying about, he said, none of it was touched. In fact, said Manning, none of the suitcases had even been opened. The only thing missing, Manning said, was the big bowling-ball shaped bag containing his camera — and all his taped interviews.

At that time, Manning had not been back in the United States for more than 10 hours.

The next day, Manning said, a mysterious man contacted them to arrange a meeting, claiming he had the stolen purse. Manning and Kalustian went to a spot near 6th and Mission as instructed, where they were met by a man who appeared to be a “full-on street bum,” Manning said. After returning the purse, the man pulled Manning to one side, opened his wallet, and flashed what Manning estimated was $5,000 worth of $100 bills. According to Manning, the “bum” winked at him and said, “Look in my eyes. I have the eyes of a former sniper. You thought you had the goods on George Bush, didn’t you? You’ve been sandbagged, boy.”

Manning said he has received more phone calls and mysterious emails from the man since returning to Santa Barbara, but holds out little hope of getting the missing tapes back. He’s most worried, he said, that whoever stole his tapes might seek to make examples of the Fallujans who spoke to him. “I risked my life to get those interviews,” he said, “and I saw the level of fear in the people I talked to.”

Diving Into Problems

Manning is a sturdily built, quiet man with brown hair, brown eyes, and just enough sideburn action to convey attitude. And he has a dimple on his chin that would give Kirk Douglas fits. The youngest of four children, Manning was born and raised in San Francisco. His father, who saw action in the Pacific during World War II, was a successful coffee importer and exporter; his mother was a housewife. Manning took to sports, football especially, playing both tight end and defensive end. But family life was less than ideal, and Manning moved out on his own by the age of 16. He traveled to the Gulf of Mexico to find work in the oil fields there. “Someone told me there would be palm trees and white sandy beaches there,” he said. “It was a stupid mistake, but that’s how I wound up getting into diving.”

To obtain his diving certificate, however, Manning moved to Santa Barbara to attend SBCC’s Marine Diving Technologies program. Santa Barbara was a great place to be a diver in the 1980s. The region’s rich offshore oil reserves were touted as second only to Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, and there was no shortage of highly paid work for those with the skills, the training, and above all, the nerve.

It was not uncommon, Manning said, to dive from an oil derrick in the middle of the night, going 300 feet down into stormy seas miles from shore. “It’s dark, it’s deep, it’s cold — it’s not an environment meant for humans — but it’s exciting,” he said. “There’s an element of death that keeps you on edge, and you feed off that edge,” he said. Very quickly, divers must learn who they can trust and who they can’t. To an uncommon degree, they are forced to make snap judgments based on instinct and intuition to stay alive. “It’s basically a no-bullshit zone out there. You wind up with a core group of guys who you trust with your life,” Manning said. He said that over the years he had at times refused to work with people simply because of the way they walked or the look in their eyes. “I’ve always wound up being happy with those decisions,” he said.

Among Santa Barbara divers, Manning enjoys a considerable respect. Lad Handelman, the founder and chief executive officer of Cal Dive and Oceaneering International, was generous with his praise. “Manning was a strong-minded, lone-wolf kind of guy — a man’s man and a diver’s diver,” he said. “He always told it like it was and was not given to political bullshit.”

Manning did well enough by his oil-field diving — and a second career as an urchin diver — to purchase a home in Santa Barbara. But diving is typically a young man’s profession. Being under water for so long can exact a serious toll on the human body. Aside from the bends, some divers develop necrosis of the bone marrow, causing their bones to snap. Others suffer the loss of fluid to their joints, causing symptoms similar to advanced arthritis. Manning managed to avoid these pitfalls and takes pride in the fact that he still has all his fingers intact. But in 2000, he quit. “I just got tired of it,” he explained. “I lost the edge. I was bored, and you can’t do really dangerous work and be bored.

As Manning looked around for a new line of work, he seized upon the idea of making documentary films, and set about learning the technical requirements and mechanics of his new craft from Santa Barbara filmmaker Russ Spencer. What otherwise might have been a typical midlife career shift was injected with new direction and urgency by the terrorist attacks of September 11. Prior to that day, Manning said he had been fairly indifferent to politics, rarely bothering to show up at the polls on most Election Days.

The attack on the World Trade Center changed all that. “When I saw the extreme lengths these guys were willing to go to get us,” Manning explained, “I wanted to find out why they hated us so much.”


‘As an American citizen, I felt personally responsible for what happened to the people of Falluja. We live in a democracy. In our democracy, my government is conducting a military operation over there in my name. To me, it doesn’t get more direct than that.’ 

— Mark Manning


Through Iraqi Eyes

For anyone not in the military — or a reporter traveling officially with the U.S. forces — just getting to Iraq can be a challenge. You don’t just hop a jet and fly in. Manning volunteered to help deliver a shipment of medical supplies targeting Iraqi refugees, sent courtesy of international relief agencies. That got him as far as Amman, Jordan. There he met Zarqa, an Iraqi peace activist fluent in numerous languages, who had come to pick up the cache of supplies. The two clicked, and Zarqa invited Manning to join her and aid in her delivery of the medical supplies.

Because of the humanitarian nature of Zarqa’s work, all factions trusted her. She was scrupulous to align herself with no one. This allowed her to deliver medical aid where it was needed. Still, Zarqa had been shot at many times and hit once while driving an ambulance during the second siege of Falluja.

Manning and Zarqa formed a plan: He would live life as an Iraqi in order to see the war as an Iraqi citizen would, and to tell America the story from the Iraqi point of view. To film openly would invite certain death, Zarqa warned him. And because he was American, few Iraqis would trust him. All interviews, Zarqa told him, would have to be conducted secretly. Manning first changed his looks, growing a beard and donning the native dress. He learned quickly that he also had to change his terminology. “If I had talked about ‘the coalition,’ instead of ‘the occupation,’ I would have been killed,” said Manning. “If I talked about ‘Operation Freedom,’ instead of ‘the invasion,’ I was dead. The same was true if I said anything about ‘terrorists.’ The Iraqis call ‘terrorists’ the Mujahedeen, or ‘freedom fighters.’”

Traveling with Zarqa and her driver, Manning arrived on the scene two days after the second siege of Falluja had ended. Residents were being allowed to re-enter their city, but access was strictly controlled by the U.S. military and no one was allowed back in without first being photographed, fingerprinted, retina-scanned, and given a bar-coded identification card. The line of people approaching the checkpoint into Falluja, Manning said, was easily 500 yards long. Zarqa told him to get out of the car and go talk to the Marines, and to be careful not to look at anybody as he passed — because he might be killed. Manning likened the experience to swimming past a row of sharks. “It was pretty nerve-wracking, all those eyeballs on me.” The Marines, he said, greeted him warmly, but with concern. “They said, ‘Who the hell are you, man? What the hell are you doing here?’”

Over time, Manning came to regard most of the Marines as his buddies. They interceded on his behalf in disputes with the Iraqi National Guard on more than one occasion, allowing him to make medical deliveries that otherwise would have been blocked. They helped prevent Iraqi National Guardsmen from seizing Manning’s driver. And although Manning said he had a few Marines jam their rifle barrels into his neck when they thought he was an Iraqi, he expressed nothing but sympathy and respect for “the guys with their boots on the ground.” Theirs was a lamentable lot in life, Manning said, having to worry that every woman and child they saw might be plotting to blow them up. “No wonder they drive down the streets with their fingers always on their triggers,” he said. But for the most part, Manning reported, the Marines he encountered were enthusiastically supportive, yelling, “Hey California, go get ’em! Rock out with your cock out, dude!”

Manning said his daily routine involved getting up and making medical deliveries to the hospital. He, Zarqa, and their driver would take their 1980 Opel to the checkpoint, get out, and walk a mile or so down a dirt road bordered by barbed wire on both sides in full view of possible snipers. Always, the deliveries were made one box at a time. The boxes included prosthetic limbs, pain killers, antibiotics, and other valuable medicines. Although the Iraqi National Guard harassed them frequently — especially their driver — no one, Manning said, ever tried to rip off their medicine. “The Marines and the resistance both knew what we were doing, and pretty much supported it,” he said.

When Manning wasn’t delivering supplies, he and Zarqa were either interviewing people, or trying to set up interviews. “Every interview I did,” said Manning, “required at least five meetings in advance. We’d get together and drink tea. Nobody trusted that a Westerner would try to tell the truth, so we had a lot of meetings and we drank a whole lot of tea.”

In the Army of God

Over the centuries, Falluja has garnered a hard-won reputation as an extremely rough, independent, and devoutly religious city. Known as “the Mosque City,” some claim the name translates to “Army of God” — others suggest it means “Division.” During the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Mosque City was home to numerous members of Hussein’s Baathist Party, and prior to the war, American military analysts suspected it was the site of at least two chemical weapons plants. Since then, popular wisdom held that Iraqis sympathetic to the insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — himself considered to be connected to Al Qaeda — were responsible for much of the violence erupting out of Falluja. This perception of Falluja was echoed by major American news outlets, and it appeared vital that Falluja and other hotbeds of Sunni resistance had to be quelled in order for Iraq’s recent elections to take place.

This picture is one that Manning strongly disputes. Many Fallujans, he said, took a dim view of Hussein, and he noted that there was little looting or unrest in Falluja following Hussein’s downfall. Manning said that most of the people he spoke with said they had been willing to give the occupation troops a chance, but after six or seven months with no running water, no gas, no electricity, no order — they were fed up. They were likewise fed up with armed foreigners peering into their homes with binoculars or walking down their streets with guns. In April 2003, several hundred Fallujans held a protest march, demanding that the occupation forces withdraw from Falluja. Initially, the demonstration was peaceful, but when protesters began hurling rocks at American troops, the troops opened fire on the crowd, killing 15. After that, said Manning, all bets were off, and the armed resistance grew exponentially. The situation came to a boil with the bloody killings of the American contractors on a Falluja bridge, which led to the first siege of the city in April 2004, which was later aborted. Responding in part to international outrage over the treatment of Fallujan citizens, the U.S. negotiated a temporary ceasefire, which held until November. It was an uneasy truce, marked by almost daily violence. And with the elections looming, a second siege was launched, on a much larger scale than the first — and at greater cost to the Fallujans.

“There were 500,000 people living in Falluja at the time, not the 250,000 that the media reports. They were given one week to leave home,” Manning said. “After three days, they were told they had to walk out. Then after a week, the U.S. forces sacked the city and killed anyone that was left.” Manning expressed outrage that no provision was made for the mass exodus of refugees. “There were no refugee camps. Families were living in chicken coops, tents, and cars. In Iraq, the winters are very cold and very wet. And these are people who left with pretty much just the clothes on their back.”

Manning said he interviewed doctors who told him that the first target during the second siege was the hospital. That’s because televised images of the casualties incurred during the first assault proved so damaging in the court of international public opinion. “If you were a male between the ages of 14 and 50, you were considered a terrorist. Troops went into the hospital, dragged people out of their beds, and evicted them. The hospital was sealed. No one was allowed in during the four-month seige. If an ambulance went out to pick up the wounded, it was fired on,” Manning said.

By the time Manning arrived in Falluja, he said the dead bodies had been disposed of. “You could smell them, but you couldn’t see them,” he said. Doctors he interviewed told him that chemical weapons had been deployed because they handled many dead bodies bearing no evident sign of trauma. As to the evidence of napalm, Manning said he saw — and has in his possession — photographs of the dead, whose clothes had been melted into their skin. As to the uranium-tipped shells, he said there was evidence everywhere. “The heat generated by these is so intense that they can basically burn through three layers of concrete to get to a target.” He said that one family showed him where the shell from a Bradley Tank went through the front of a house, through four walls, and killed their son in his bed. “The whole town is radiated,” said Manning. “We are poisoning the whole country.”


According to Manning, the ‘bum’ winked at him and said: ‘Look in my eyes. I have the eyes of a former sniper. You thought you had the goods on George Bush, didn’t you? You’ve been sandbagged, boy.’

— Mark Manning


Over the course of his interviews, Manning said he spoke with a mother who saw her son killed in front of her. He talked to a father who had lost his wife, brother, and daughters. “I talked to a 17-year-old girl who saw her father and mother shot by Marines,” said Manning. “She was hiding under the bed with her brother when her parents’ bodies dropped on the ground in front of her them... Her parents’ brains were on the floor. The girl and her brother stayed under the bed for three days, until the Marines came back, and this time they found her and her brother. They shot her brother in the head and they shot her three times, in the chest and the legs. When she told me about it,” said Manning, “I had to look down. I felt I was personally responsible. And she did too.”

Because of incidents like these, Manning said, the resistance has grown from about 5,000 to 250,000. “Everybody’s in the resistance. You don’t ask them directly; that wouldn’t be wise. But everybody’s in the resistance,” he said.  

Kidnappers’ Tea Party

Manning said his time in Falluja convinced him that the war is not winnable as it’s currently being fought. “There are kids everywhere over there. It’s like Jimboree at lunchtime. So when we make a mistake and drop bombs on the wrong location, it’s kids we’re killing. Can you imagine the hate and anger, the desire for revenge these people have? It’s just not going to work.”

The Iraqis he spoke to, said Manning, were critical of both Saddam Hussein and George Bush. “They said Saddam Hussein committed mass murder, torture, mass arrests without cause. But they see the Americans as doing all of these same things.” Since the hostilities started, Manning said 28,000 Iraqis have been killed. (American military officials do not track Iraqi civilian casualties, relying instead upon the Iraqi Health Ministry, which reports only 3,500 civilian casualties. A British study — now several months old — placed the figure above 100,000.)

If Americans have any hope of being regarded as anything but an occupying force, Manning said, they need to show respect. “This is a very traditional country. You don’t shake hands with women, but Americans are not only shaking the women’s hands, they’re frisking them in public. They’re detaining the sisters of suspected terrorists and sending them to Abu Ghraib where they are systematically raped. They are kicking down doors and walking into mosques with their boots on. You have no idea how profoundly disrespectful this is to the people there.”

To highlight the Iraqi sensitivity to slights perceived or real, Manning described how he was almost kidnapped. He was sipping tea with an Iraqi family in their home, hoping to persuade them to agree to an interview when a group of eight men showed up. “They said I was a spy, and they were going to take me away,” Manning said. Zarqa came to his aid, as she often had, but so did the family he was visiting. “They were infuriated at the lack of respect the kidnappers were showing. They shouted at them. … If they had kidnapped me, it would have been such a huge insult to this family.” In the end, the kidnappers were invited to tea and they accepted. Manning said he spoke to them at length, but never asked what they would have done with him. “I stayed away from that,” he said, adding, “Everybody has tea over there. Even if you go to kidnap people, you have tea.”

As an American in Falluja, Manning said he had to be careful about playing the devil’s advocate in interviews by arguing the Bush administration’s case. He did repeat Bush’s argument that the United States needs to fight terror in Iraq to keep it from coming to America. “They just laughed,” he said. “They asked, ‘How are we going to get there? Look at us.’”             

Manning, Zarqa, and their driver traveled next to Baghdad, where they witnessed the recent elections. “The big story about those elections is that nobody really knows what the story is,” he said. Manning said that the United Nations observers never left the Green Zone during the elections, adding that observers were stationed at only five of Iraq’s 90-plus polling places. In addition, he said, Al Jazeera, the Arab news organization, had been kicked out. “Iraqis were told that if they wanted food rations, they had to vote. Everybody over there is on food rations,” he said. “And the food ration guys were at the polling places to make sure people voted.”

Manning took specific exception to some of CNN’s coverage of the elections. “They showed a long line of people in Falluja waiting to vote, but it wasn’t a voting line. It was the checkpoint line, people waiting to get into the city.” While in Falluja, he said he only encountered other reporters once. It was an embedded CNN crew. “They came in with two Apaches, four Bradleys, and eight Humvees. They sealed off the block. Then they brought in a tank and soldiers who tossed candy to the kids. Then eight guys dressed in orange jumpsuits got out and started sweeping the streets,” he said. “It was a staged event.”

During his stay in Baghdad, said Manning, gun battles happened regularly outside his hotel. He estimated he heard about 50 car-bomb explosions a day. He tried filming street scenes of the election from a rooftop but had rifles pointed at him at least twice for his efforts. He was detained twice, as well, but Zarqa intervened and he was let go. Manning said he was shot at a few times in Baghdad by the Iraqi National Guard. “You don’t know whether they’re trying to miss you on purpose,” he said. “But you do realize they have every right to kill you.”

From Baghdad, Manning flew back to Amman, Jordan, where he waited five days to interview one of the sheiks, who, between the first and second sieges in Falluja, had attempted to negotiate with the Marines. The sheik told Manning he believed that peace was possible, but that time was of the essence. “He said that if we don’t wake up soon, there will be blood running in the streets in the United States,” Manning said. The sheik added that most Iraqis want the United States to withdraw to their military bases and leave the peace-keeping efforts to United Nations’ troops.


‘They said Saddam Hussein committed mass murder, torture, mass arrests without cause. But they see the Americans as doing all of these same things.’ 

— Mark Manning


Now back in Santa Barbara, Manning is still going through the cultural shock that comes with making the journey from Disneyland to hell and back again. Since returning, he’s shaved his beard. He can once again enjoy the private pleasures of modern sanitation. And the threat of imminent death has receded. Now, he is left to mull over what it all means. Manning holds some hope — however faint — that regardless of the United States intentions, some good might still come to Iraq. And though he opposed the war from the beginning, Manning said, “We can’t just pull out. That would be a disaster for the Iraqi people. We need to be there now, for all the reasons we said we went in there in the beginning — to help the Iraqi people.” He’s less ambivalent about why Americans are so hated. “We want to say it’s because they’re evil, and because they’re jealous of us. But the real reason is a lot simpler. We’re killing them. And they want to fight back.” Manning knows that whatever he does, he has no choice but to speak out on behalf of the Iraqis. Adding urgency to his mission is a profound sense that there is no longer a functioning free press in America. “And without a free press, there is no democracy,” he said. Even though his taped interviews were stolen, Manning said he managed to download many video images of Falluja onto his computer, as well as many still photos. With these, he hopes to make first a 10-minute DVD, and then later a full-length documentary. He also said he’s in the process of creating a new organization to deliver humanitarian aid to Iraq, where he hopes to return. But in the meantime, his immediate challenge is how best to confront the indifference, despair, and exhaustion many Americans are feeling about Iraq. “We’ve reached the state where apathy has become a war crime,” he said.


Manning is pictured with a family of refugees who gave him tea and a place to stay for the night. Distraught by the destruction he saw everywhere, Manning said these kids spent two hours clowning around, trying to cheer him up. “They said, ‘You can’t let this get to you.’”

Manning can be contacted via his Web site at http://www.conceptionmedia.net

---

HERE ARE THE CAPTIONS FOR THE PICTURES IN THE COLUMN ON THE RIGHT AT http://www.independent.com/cover/Cover956.htm

Since the war in Iraq broke out, Falluja has become an exceptionally dangerous place for Americans. American strategists concluded that Falluja must be silenced militarily for the sake of Iraq’s recent elections. As an oil diver, Mark Manning would jump into the water when there was a problem down below. As a filmmaker concerned with what the U.S. is doing in Iraq, Manning did much the same thing.

This 4-year-old spent his time either staring blankly ahead or jumping at any provocation and shaking. He was one of seven kids whose family Manning visited almost daily.

This hole shows where a depleted uranium shell passed through, Manning said, “burning” holes through walls rather than knocking them down outright. Manning said so much depleted uranium’s been deployed in Falluja and Iraq that the whole nation will be afflicted with radiation poisoning.

A dead boy, shot through the cheek. Manning suggested this meant he was likely the victim of sniper fire. Anyone — even women and children — Manning  said, could be the enemy of American troops, planning how to attack.

Unlike many Iraqis Manning met, this man had no fear about having his picture taken. The man told Manning his house was raided by Marines, that he and his 7-year-old son were shot and then taken to the hospital. Afterwards, the man said his son was detained and he hasn’t seen him since. When he got back home, he found his house had been flattened.

Anyone killed during either of the U.S.’s sieges on Falluja is considered a martyr there; these two boys are visiting Martyrs’ Grave, the mass grave in which their mother is buried.

A typical street scene in downtown Falluja after the two American-led sieges. According to Manning, many Fallujans were reluctant to leave their homes despite being warned that anyone who remained would be killed. Some had no money and no place to go, others wanted to protect what they had, and some didn’t take the threat seriously enough.

Manning inspects a room where a 5-year-old Iraqi boy was killed in his sleep by an incoming shell. Manning said the shell penetrated through four concrete walls — without obliterating them — before arriving at its final destination. This, he said, indicated the shell’s tip was packed with depleted uranium. The boy in the foreground was in the room with his brother when the attack occurred.

In November, Fallujans were given one week to leave their city. Earlier this year, they were allowed to return, but not before standing in this line to get their retinas scanned, their fingerprints taken, and their identities reduced to a bar code.

This family related to Manning how their relatives — unnamed young teens — were shot at point blank range by U.S. Marines.

Manning charged the U.S. military used napalm against civilians during the second siege of Falluja. While he didn’t see the bodies himself, he said photographs — like this one which shows clothes melting into flesh — document the use of this incendiary jelly. Pentagon officials have denied using napalm per se, but have admitted using a close cousin to it elsewhere in the Iraq war. Its use against civilian populations is banned by an international treaty that the United States never signed.

Typical graffiti exhorting the U.S Army to leave. Left out of the photograph is the post script: “or Died.” As much as Manning said he opposed the war in the beginning, he said if American troops were to withdraw now, things would get worse. Many Iraqis told him they didn’t want the Americans to leave outright; they want the U.S. military to withdraw to its bases and let the UN handle the peacekeeping responsibilities.

---

See also:

Blog from a girl in Baghdad
http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/
A first-person witty narrative of a first-hand experience of what it is to live in Baghdad since the invasion began 2 years ago. A first row seat to a powerful human tragedy. Make sure to read the March 23 entry. Recommended by Alexander a.propos@mail.ru>

An Eyewitness Account of Fallujah (December 16, 2004) http://www.dahrjamailiraq.com/hard_news/archives/hard_news/000160.php

Fallujah Refugees Tell of Life and Death in the Kill Zone (December 03, 2004)
http://www.dahrjamailiraq.com/hard_news/archives/hard_news/000145.php

Neglect Follows Siege of Fallujah (November 30, 2004)
http://www.dahrjamailiraq.com/hard_news/archives/hard_news/000143.php

'Unusual Weapons' Used in Fallujah (November 26, 2004)
http://www.dahrjamailiraq.com/hard_news/archives/hard_news/000137.php

Many more related articles at http://www.dahrjamailiraq.com/hard_news/ and http://www.dahrjamailiraq.com/covering_iraq/

566 Images From The War in Iraq
http://www.dahrjamailiraq.com/gallery/

Many other news at Electronic Iraq
http://electronicIraq.net/news/

Video From Falluja - Testimonies From Falluja
http://www.dahrjamailiraq.com/links/
PepperSpray Productions announces a new 33 min video produced in Iraq by independent Iraqi videographers. Dahr Jamail does the English voice-over and is assisting with the video's dissemination in the US. "Testimonies From Falluja" contains photos and footage from the US assault on Falluja, as well as interviews with Iraqi survivors and refugees. The US has obstructed - and continues to obstruct - journalists from documenting the horror that was and is Falluja. This video is unique in that it focuses on Falluja, that it was made by a team of independent Iraqi videographers, and that we are able to see it in the US. The DVD is available for $10 on the PepperSpray Productions website. Funds generated by this video will support further independent reporting from Iraq.

An exclusive, in-depth interview with journalist Dahr Jamail on what is really going on in Iraq http://www.newtopiamagazine.net/content/issue19/features/DahrJamail.php
(...) Newtopia: We rarely see any substantial imagery coming out of Iraq in the US corporate media. What does Iraq look like now? What aren't the people in the United States seeing, and what do you feel they should be seeing?

DJ: The devastation. The massive suffering and devastation of the people and their country. Baghdad remains in shambles 19 months into this illegal occupation. Bombed buildings sit as insulting reminders of unbroken promises of reconstruction. Bullet ridden mosques with blood stained carpets inside where worshippers, unarmed, have been slaughtered by soldiers. Entire families living on the street. 70% unemployment with no hope of this changing. Chaotic, clogged streets of Baghdad and 5 mile long petrol lines in this oil rich country. Engineers and doctors, unemployed, driving their cars as a taxi to try to feed their families. The seething anger in the eyes of people on the streets as US patrols rumble past.Iraqis now cheering when another US patrol or base is attacked. Dancing on the burning US military hardware.Dead and maimed US soldiers. The wounded screaming and writhing in agony. Their shattered families. The mass graves of innocent Fallujans after the utter destruction of their city. Children deformed by Depleted Uranium exposure lying in shattered hospitals, suffering from lack of treatment, or even pain medications. Dead, rotting bodies in the streets of Fallujah of women and children being eaten by dogs and cats because the military did not allow relief teams into the city for nearly two weeks.

(...) Newtopia: Have you had much contact with American troops, and if so, what are they saying, and what is your impression of them? Do you support NBC reporter Kevin Sites' decision to film and report on the murder of an unarmed and wounded Iraqi prisoner this week? Do you believe this was a relatively "isolated" incident, or did these guys just get caught?

DJ: I’ve had a fair amount, but not so much this trip. I make it a point to avoid them now since they are such constant targets. They are being attacked at least 100 times a day as of late. But when I interacted with them my last two trips I found most of them to be quite scared, and morale depended on how long they’d been here. The newer folks were keeping a stiff upper lip and staying on message. The folks who’d been here 6, 9 or 12 months were angry, aiming their guns at everyone, and sometimes high on drugs. Not to generalize-not all were like this. But I saw many who were, and it reminded me of everything I’ve read about what happened to the psyche of US soldiers in Vietnam. I do support Kevin Sites’ decision to film what he did of the execution of the old, unarmed Iraqi man in the mosque. 100% I support this. People need to see that this is what is occurring here-and this is NOT an isolated incident. Nearly every refugee from Fallujah I’ve interviewed has spoken of mass executions, tanks rolling over the wounded in the streets, bodies being thrown in the Euphrates by the military, and other atrocities. The footage of the execution in the mosque is akin to the photos that came out of Abu Ghraib. They are only the tip of the iceberg of atrocities that have been occurring here from the beginning. Atrocities that are occurring right now. Indeed, those soldiers just got caught. This is not news, however-because we’ve even had military commanders come out in the media and admit that they gave orders to soldiers to shoot anything that moved in Fallujah. What we will see in Fallujah is that it has been a genocide.

(...) In the end, people know the truth when they see it. I taste this by mail I get from my readers-those who read many sources and thank me for reporting the truth, as well as those who support the occupation who send hate mail and try to tell me I’m reporting from Idaho and making everything up. Their ugly reactions indicate that they prefer not to know the truth-that their government has deceived a large percentage of the American people into supporting an illegal invasion that has cost at least 100,000 Iraqi lives, as well as those of over 1,200 US soldiers. Many people would rather lash out to protect their denial rather than accepting responsibility for supporting such atrocities. In the end, the truth will come out, no matter how intense the repression becomes. And in the end, those in America who support this occupation will eventually see that virtually the majority of people in every other country on the planet oppose the American agenda in Iraq. It is only a matter of time.

Iraq: Torture Continues at Hands of New Government
http://electronicIraq.net/news/1859.shtml
Report, Human Rights Watch, 25 January 2005 - Iraqi security forces are committing systematic torture and other abuses against people in detention, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. The 94-page report, The New Iraq? Torture and Ill-treatment of Detainees in Iraqi Custody, documents how unlawful arrest, long-term incommunicado detention, torture and other ill-treatment of detainees (including children) by Iraqi authorities have become routine and commonplace. Human Rights Watch conducted interviews in Iraq with 90 detainees, 72 of whom alleged having been tortured or ill-treated, particularly under interrogation. While insurgent forces have committed numerous unlawful attacks against the Iraqi police, this does not justify the abuses committed by Iraqi authorities, Human Rights Watch said. “The people of Iraq were promised something better than this after the government of Saddam Hussein fell,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division. “The Iraqi Interim Government is not keeping its promises to honor and respect basic human rights. Sadly, the Iraqi people continue to suffer from a government that acts with impunity in its treatment of detainees.” Methods of torture cited by detainees include routine beatings to the body using cables, hosepipes and other implements. Detainees report kicking, slapping and punching; prolonged suspension from the wrists with the hands tied behind the back; electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body, including the earlobes and genitals; and being kept blindfolded and/or handcuffed continuously for several days. In several cases, the detainees suffered what may be permanent physical disability. Detainees also reported being deprived by Iraqi security forces of food and water, and being crammed into small cells with standing room only. Numerous detainees described how Iraqi police sought bribes in return for release, access to family members or food and water. CLIP

U.S. Soldiers Told to 'Beat the F**k Out of' Detainees (March 31, 2005)
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0331-13.htm
NEW YORK, NY -- The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is charging that U.S. Army documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the mistreatment of detainees in Iraq was much more widespread than the government has admitted.The advocacy group also accused the Army of failing to comply with a court order to release the documents and manipulating the mediato minimize coverage and public access.The ACLU said the reason for the delay in delivering the more than 1,200 pages of documents was evident in the contents, which include reports of brutal beatings, exercise until exhaustion and sworn statements that soldiers were told to beat the f**k out of detainees. One file cites evidence that military intelligence personnel in Iraq tortured detainees held in their custody. CLIP

Fresh Details Emerge of Iraqis' Abuse by American Soldiers (27 March 2005)
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=624052
Damning evidence of American soldiers abusing detainees at another prison in Iraq was made public yesterday. It details how prisoners were "systematically and intentionally mistreated" at a military base in Mosul, culminating in the death of one. Nobody was court-martialled over the abuse. An investigation by a US officer after a prisoner's jaw was broken found that inmates were hit with water bottles, made to do exhausting physical exercises until they collapsed, deprived of sleep, subjected to deafening heavy metal music and had cigarette smoke blown into sandbags they were forced to wear as hoods. One soldier said troops "always harassed the hell out of detainees"; another said that at times "the detainees would get so scared they would piss themselves". In December 2003 a prisoner died after four days of continuous punishment. According to the documents, which were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union, mistreatment was not confined to Abu Ghraib jail, where abuse and sexual humiliation of inmates caused worldwide outrage last year. CLIP

Army Probe Finds Abuse at Jail Near Mosul (March 26, 2005)
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/032705X.shtml
Washington -- Newly released government documents say the abuse of prisoners in Iraq by US forces was more widespread than previously reported. An officer found that detainees "were being systematically and intentionally mistreated" at a holding facility near Mosul in December 2003. The 311th Military Intelligence Battalion of the Army's 101st Airborne Division ran the lockup. Records previously released by the Army have detailed abuses at Abu Ghraib and other sites in Iraq as well as at sites in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The documents released Friday were the first to reveal abuses at the jail in Mosul and are among the few to allege torture directly.

The Pentagon's Secret Stash of Torture Photos
http://www.reason.com/0504/co.mw.the.shtml
Why we'll never see the second round of Abu Ghraib photos - The images, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress, depict "acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman." After Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) viewed some of them in a classified briefing, he testified that his "stomach gave out." NBC News reported that they show "American soldiers beating one prisoner almost to death, apparently raping a female prisoner, acting inappropriately with a dead body, and taping Iraqi guards raping young boys." Everyone who saw the photographs and videos seemed to shudder openly when contemplating what the reaction would be when they eventually were made public. But they never were. (...) Legalities are one thing, but the real motivation for choking off access is obvious: Torture photos undermine support for the Iraq war. (...) Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warned: "We risk losing public support for this conflict. As Americans turned away from the Vietnam War, they may turn away from this one." (...) Looking ahead to the next four years, there is little doubt that the administration, its supporters, and Congress will use whatever legal means are available to prevent Abu Ghraib—the public relations problem, not the prisoner abuse—from happening again. The Defense Department has commissioned numerous studies about America's problem with "public diplomacy" since the September 11 massacre; all those compiled since last May hold up the iconic torture images as the perfect example of what not to let happen again. CLIP




3.

From: http://www.kurtnimmo.com/blog/

Another Day In The Empire

Kurt Nimmo

March 29, 2005

100,000 Murdered Iraqis: A "Model for How Democracy Can Take Hold"

In Bushzarro world, as reflected by the corporate media, flattening large swaths of Fallujah is considered democracy. "The commander of the Marine force that drove Iraqi insurgents from Fallujah last fall says the town will become a model for how democracy can take hold in Iraq," writes John E. Mulligan of the Providence Journal. "[Gen. John Satler] held out the story of Fallujah as a source of great hope for Iraq's future and—by implication—for the prospects of reducing and eventually concluding the commitment of U.S. troops here."

If we are to believe the corporate media—the Strausscon lie machine on steroids—only "insurgents" were killed in Fallujah. "Like the Nazi media, the major US radio and TV networks only report what they call 'military casualties' —failing to report the civilians killed since the war started and the thousands of women and children killed and wounded since the assault of Fallujah began," writes James Petras. "The mass media fabricates a web of lies to secure a gloss of legitimacy for totalitarian methods in order that the US armed forces continue to destroy cities with impunity. The technique perfected by Goebbels in Germany and practiced in the US is to repeat lies and euphemism until they become accepted 'truths', and embedded in everyday language."

Consider the "everyday language" of J. Grant Swank, Jr., church pastor and graduate of Harvard Divinity School:

"It's the spark for freedom that's inspiring neighborhoods to keep their homes safe from murderers global. At the grassroots level increasingly the Iraqis themselves are taking care of the malcontents out to undo the historic January 30 Victory Vote. In other words, it just won't happen; that is, the foes won't win. The victors will continue to win; the enemy will be deposed, one by one, place by place, and the local Iraqis will see to it."

In other words, thousands of Iraqis resisting the occupation of their country will be "deposed, one by one, place by place." In fact, as Gen. John Satler noted above, the "model for how democracy can take hold in Iraq" does not accept Swank's ill-informed delusion that patriotic Iraqis will slaughter their fellow countrymen "one by one, place by place," but rather en masse in U.S. directed medieval sieges, complete with internationally outlawed chemical weapons, including nerve gas. This fact was revealed by Dr. Khalid ash-Shaykhli, an official at Iraq's health ministry, apparently one of Swank's heralded "local Iraqis."

Meanwhile, as if to add legitimacy to the mass murder of non-combatant Fallujans—even though most Americans remain oblivious to this fact—the Pentagon is stepping up its effort to portray the resistance as "tens of thousands of hardened criminals driven by devotion to Saddam," as Rowan Scarborough of the ever-faithful to the Strausscon cause Washington Post reports.

"Above all the mass propaganda media has done everything possible to deny Iraqi national consciousness," explains James Petras. "Everyday in every way the reference is to religious loyalties, ethnic identities, past political labels, 'tribal' and family clans. The purpose is to divide and conquer, and to present the world with a 'chaotic' Iraq in which the only coherent, stable force is the US colonial regime. The purpose of the savage colonial assaults and the political labeling is to destroy the idea of the Iraqi nation—and in its place to substitute a series of mini-entities run by imperial satraps obedient to Washington."

However, corporate media spin, engineered at the Pentagon, will not diminish or blunt the resistance, especially in the wake of "the historic January 30 Victory Vote" that has yet to result in a viable or representative government in Iraq. "The countdown has begun to the day a legitimate Iraqi government, dominated by the Shias, will politely ask the Americans to leave and take their bases with them," writes Phil Toler. "Once again, the spectre of a Sunni/Shia alliance with regard to the resistance would be too compelling to ignore."

Delusional wishful thinking on the part of pastors and analysts at the Pentagon will not put an end to the resistance, nor will the continued characterization of the resistance as a criminal enterprise spawned when Saddam Hussein emptied the prisons prior to Bush's invasion. Iraqis understand the Strausscon "model for how democracy can take hold in Iraq" and realize all too well this will translate into more mass murder, more suffering and privation. For now the Shia are holding their cards close to their vest, but eventually they will demand Bush remove his troops and bases from their country. Of course, Bush will not do this—in fact, he will antagonize and possibly begin murdering fellow Shia Muslims in neighboring Iran. And when this happens there will be hell to pay and no amount of corporate media spin will paper over the disastrous results.

---

See also:

George W. Bush, the Frightened Man (March 31) http://forum.truthout.org/blog/story/2005/3/31/94949/7464
(...) It is not terrorism that motivates George, or patriotism, or even profiteering. It is fear, pure and simple: Fear of the truth, fear of the world, fear of any data that collides with his faith-based bubble-encapsuled worldview, and fear most of all of the people he would represent. You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you. Now we know, and the knowledge is deeply and profoundly disturbing. (...) the tide is turning I think he should be afraid, his party should be afraid.  This is the most corrupt administration in the history of our country and I believe people may be just beginning to see this. They have a lot to hide and they have a lot to fear if and when the account of their war profiteering, the theft, lies and treason come to light. They have a lot to fear if the world court ever gets the stones to charge them with crimes against humanity. The American people have a right to see the extent of their deceit, although I don't see the press ever having the stones to investigate. Scum always floats to the top, it's just a matter of time. CLIP
"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace."
- Jimi Hendrix

In Iraq, Where Danger Is a Constant, Bases Offer Troops a Taste of Home (26 March 2005)
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/032605C.shtml
Baghdad - The war in Iraq is the first American conflict in which a GI on patrol can risk evisceration from artillery shells rigged to a cell phone, then return to base in time for ESPN's "SportsCenter," a T-bone steak, a mocha cappuccino, a gym workout, an Internet surf session, a hot shower and a cold, if non-alcoholic, beer. In Iraq, there is the "fob" - the forward operating base - and there is life outside the fob. A soldier's existence in Iraq is defined by the fob, and by the concertina wire that marks its boundaries. (...)  Inside each fob lies an ersatz America, a manifestation of the urge to create a lesser version of home in a hostile land. The three vast airport fobs, home to the 3rd Infantry Division and 18th Airborne Corps, have the ambience of a trailer park set inside a maximum-security prison. Soldiers live in white metal mobile homes piled high with sandbags. They have beds, televisions, air conditioning, charcoal grills and volleyball courts. At the flat, dusty airport fob called Liberty, there is a Burger King, a Subway sandwich shop and an Internet cafe. TV sets in mess halls and gyms blare basketball games or Fox News, the unofficial official news channel of the U.S. military. A sprawling PX sells CDs, DVDs, "Operation Iraqi Freedom" caps and T-shirts that read: "Who's Your Baghdaddy?" Every need - food, laundry, maid service - is attended to by a legion of imported workers from non-Muslim nations, mostly Indians, Filipinos and Nepalese. They are a chipper, efficient lot who, combined with soldiers from places like El Salvador and Estonia, give the fob the breezy, cosmopolitan feel of a misplaced Olympic Village. The mess halls are like shopping mall food courts, with salad bars, taco bars and ice cream stations. Cheeseburgers and cheesesteaks hiss and pop on short-order grills. CLIP

Secret US plans for Iraq's oil - By Greg Palast Reporting for Newsnight (2005/03/17)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/4354269.stm
The Bush administration made plans for war and for Iraq's oil before the 9/11 attacks, sparking a policy battle between neo-cons and Big Oil, BBC's Newsnight has revealed.Two years ago today - when President George Bush announced US, British and Allied forces would begin to bomb Baghdad - protesters claimed the US had a secret plan for Iraq's oil once Saddam had been conquered.In fact there were two conflicting plans, setting off a hidden policy war between neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, on one side, versus a combination of "Big Oil" executives and US State Department "pragmatists"."Big Oil" appears to have won. The latest plan, obtained by Newsnight from the US State Department was, we learned, drafted with the help of American oil industry consultants. CLIP

U.S. to create list of 'unstable' nations (March 29)
http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20050329-084546-9176r.htm
U.S. intelligence experts are preparing a list of 25 countries deemed unstable and, thus, candidates for intervention. The National Intelligence Council, a State Department office that collates intelligence for strategic planning, will compose and revise the secret list every six months, the Financial Times reported Tuesday. Carlos Pascual, a former ambassador who now heads the newly formed agency, said the NIC would identify countries of "greatest instability and risk" to clarify priorities and allocate resources.Pascual said conflict prevention and postwar reconstruction had become a "mainstream foreign-policy challenge" because of the dangers of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Iraqi Parliament Adjourns in Disarray (29 March 2005)
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/032905Y.shtml
Two months after elections, ethnic groups fail to agree on coalition. Iraq's attempt to fill the first posts in a national-unity government erupted in shouting and factional strife Tuesday, as what politicians described as last-minute power plays overran a Shiite- and Kurd-led effort to form a coalition with Sunnis. A National Assembly session meant to elect the essential post of assembly speaker opened with Islamic prayers followed by a veiled lawmaker rising to her feet in black robes to denounce "these behind-the-scenes" talks on a new government. A quick series of complaints followed with rank-and-file lawmakers expressing frustration at the more than two months of haggling over forming a government following the Jan. 30 national elections. CLIP

Two Months In and Still Foundering - Iraqi Assembly Again Fails to Elect Speaker or Fill Other Key Positions (30 March 2005)
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/033005C.shtml

Follow the Money (04 April 2005)
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/032805N.shtml
Watchdogs are warning that corruption in Iraq is out of control. But will the United States join efforts to clamp down on it? (...) More than U.S. money is at stake. The administration has harshly criticized the United Nations over hundreds of millions stolen from the Oil-for-Food Program under Saddam. But the successor to Oil-for-Food created under the occupation, called the Development Fund for Iraq, could involve billions of potentially misused dollars. On Jan. 30, the former CPA's own inspector general, Stuart Bowen, concluded that occupation authorities accounted poorly for $8.8 billion in these Iraqi funds. "The CPA did not implement adequate financial controls," Bowen said. U.S. officials argue that it was impossible, in a war environment, to have such controls. Yet now the Bush administration is either ignoring or stalling inquiries into the use of these Iraqi oil funds, according to reports by Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, and others. In one case, the Pentagon's own Defense Contract Audit Agency found that the leading U.S. contractor in Iraq, Halliburton subsidiary KBR, overcharged Iraq occupation authorities by $108 million for a task order to deliver fuel. Yet the Pentagon permitted KBR to redact-or black out-almost all negative references to the company in this Oct. 8, 2004, audit. CLIP

Radical Iraqi Cleric's Follower Calls for Million-Strong Anti-US Demo (25 March 2005)
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/032705E.shtml
Kufa, Iraq - A follower of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr called for a million-strong demonstration in Iraq to demand a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops.

Depleted Uranium Update
http://peaceinspace.blogs.com/peaceinspaceorg/2005/03/peaceinspace_ra.html

Depleted Uranium: Dirty Bombs, Dirty Missiles, Dirty Bullets
http://www.truthout.org/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi/4/5878
A death sentence here and abroad. (...) The first DU weapons system was developed for the Navy in 1968, and DU weapons were given to and used by Israel in 1973 under U.S. supervision in the Yom Kippur war against the Arabs. The Phalanx weapons system, using DU, was tested on the USS Bigelow out of Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in 1977, and DU weapons have been sold by the U.S. to 29 countries. Military research report summaries detail the testing of DU from 1974-1999 at military testing grounds, bombing and gunnery ranges and at civilian labs under contract. Today 42 states are contaminated with DU from manufacture, testing and deployment. Women living around these facilities have reported increases in endometriosis, birth defects in babies, leukemia in children and cancers and other diseases in adults. Thousands of tons of DU weapons tested for decades by the Navy on four bombing and gunnery ranges around Fallon, Nevada, is no doubt the cause of the fastest growing leukemia cluster in the U.S. over the past decade. The military denies that DU is the cause.

(...) The US has a dirty (DU) little (CIA) secret

A new book just published at the American Free Press by Michael Collins Piper, “The High Priests of War: The Secret History of How America’s Neo-Conservative Trotskyites Came to Power and Orchestrated the War Against Iraq as the First Step in Their Drive for Global Empire,” details the early plans for a war against the Arab world by Henry Kissinger and the neo-cons in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That just happens to coincide with getting the DU “show on the road” and the oil crisis in the Middle East, which caused concern not only to President Nixon. The British had been plotting and scheming for control of the oil in Iraq for decades since first using poison gas on the Iraqis and Kurds in 1912.

The book details the creation of the neo-cons by their “godfather” and Trotsky lover Irving Kristol, who pushed for a “war against terrorism” long before 9/11 and was lavishly funded for years by the CIA. His son, William Kristol, is one of the most influential men in the United States.

Both are public relations men for the Israeli lobby’s neo-conservative network, with strong ties to Rupert Murdoch. Kissinger also has ties to this network and the Carlyle Group, who, one could say, have facilitated these omnicidal wars beginning from the time former President Bush took office. It would be easy to say that we are recycling World Wars I and II, with the same faces.

When I asked Vietnam Special Ops Green Beret Capt. John McCarthy, who could have devised this omnicidal plan to use DU to destroy the genetic code and genetic future of large populations of Arabs and Moslems in the Middle East and Central Asia - just coincidentally the areas where most of the world’s oil deposits are located - he replied: “It has all the handprints of Henry Kissinger.”

In Zbignew Brzezinski’s book “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives,” the map of the Eurasian chessboard includes four regions strategic to U.S. foreign policy. The “South” region corresponds precisely to the regions now contaminated permanently with radiation from U.S. bombs, missiles and bullets made with thousands of tons of DU.

A Japanese professor, Dr. K. Yagasaki, has calculated that 800 tons of DU is the atomicity equivalent of 83,000 Nagasaki bombs. The U.S. has used more DU since 1991 than the atomicity equivalent of 400,000 Nagasaki bombs. Four nuclear wars indeed, and 10 times the amount of radiation released into the atmosphere from atmospheric testing!

No wonder our soldiers, their families and the people of the Middle East, Yugoslavia and Central Asia are sick. But as Henry Kissinger said after Vietnam when our soldiers came home ill from Agent Orange, “Military men are just dumb stupid animals to be used for foreign policy.”

Unfortunately, more and more of those soldiers are men and women with brown skin. And unfortunately, the DU radioactive dust will be carried around the world and deposited in our environments just as the “smog of war” from the 1991 Gulf War was found in deposits in South America, the Himalayas and Hawaii.

In June 2003, the World Health Organization announced in a press release that global cancer rates will increase 50 percent by 2020. What else do they know that they aren’t telling us? I know that depleted uranium is a death sentence … for all of us. We will all die in silent ways.

How Bush Learned To Love the Bomb (30 Mar 2005)
http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,348779,00.html
United States President George W. Bush is talking tough about nukes in Iran and North Korea. But critics say by illegally testing and building nuclear weapons, the U.S. is fueling a new arms race. (...) The United States has still not ratified the treaty. And the current activity in the Nevada desert is no aberration of Bush policy: U.S. nuclear labs continue to receive funding -- now approximately $8 billion a year -- for nuclear weapons research, development and testing activities. Among the recent developments is the Nevada Test Site's $100 million Device Assembly Facility, which was designed and built during the days of underground nuclear tests but wasn't functional before the 1992 moratorium. The facility is where plutonium is prepared for use in subcritical experiments, including Unicorn. (...) In the 2006 budget submitted to Congress in January, the administration renewed its request for $8.5 million toward "bunker buster" bombs, part of a $6.6 billion overall price tag for weapons programs. The Pentagon stands to get the most funding, with Bush's requesting an increase in its budget of $19 billion to $419 billion. And, with the passage in December of the Intelligence and Terrorism Prevention Act, Rumsfeld -- a staunch advocate of "bunker busters" -- has greater means to implement the programs of his choice. CLIP

Jimmy Carter: Non-Proliferation Treaty needs push for renewal (March 30, 2005)
http://www.madison.com/tct/opinion//index.php?ntid=34173&ntpid=3
The United States is the major culprit in this erosion of the NPT. While claiming to be protecting the world from proliferation threats in Iraq, Libya, Iran and North Korea, American leaders not only have abandoned existing treaty restraints but also have asserted plans to test and develop new weapons, including anti-ballistic missiles, the earth-penetrating "bunker buster" and perhaps some new "small" bombs. They also have abandoned past pledges and now threaten first use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.

Poll: Most in US Oppose Nuclear Weapons (31 March 2005)
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/033105G.shtml
Washington - Most Americans surveyed in a poll say they do not think any country, including the United States, should have nuclear weapons. That sentiment is at odds with current efforts by some nations that are trying to develop the weapons and by terrorists seeking to add them to their arsenal.

Another Country (01 April 2005)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,1449923,00.html
As rumours persist of US plans to invade Iran, Rageh Omaar, the face of the BBC during the Iraq war, visits Tehran - and finds a nation far removed from the one George Bush seems to fear.




4.

From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4395525.stm

Children 'starving' in new Iraq

30 March, 2005

Increasing numbers of children in Iraq do not have enough food to eat and more than a quarter are chronically undernourished, a UN report says.

Malnutrition rates in children under five have almost doubled since the US-led invasion - to nearly 8% by the end of last year, it says.

The report was prepared for the annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

It also expressed concern over North Korea and Sudan's Darfur province.

Jean Ziegler, a UN specialist on hunger who prepared the report, blamed the worsening situation in Iraq on the war led by coalition forces.

He was addressing a meeting of the 53-nation commission, the top UN rights watchdog, which is halfway through its annual six-week session.

When Saddam Hussein was overthrown, about 4% of Iraqi children under five were going hungry; now that figure has almost doubled to 8%, his report says.

Governments must recognise their extra-territorial obligations towards the right to food and should not do anything that might undermine access to it of people living outside their borders, it says.

That point is aimed clearly at the US, but Washington, which has sent a large delegation to the Human Rights Commission, declined to respond to the charges, says the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva.

Increasing hunger

Mr Ziegler also said he was very concerned about the lack of food in North Korea, where there are reports that UN food aid is not being distributed fairly.

In Darfur, the continuing conflict has prevented people from planting vital crops, he said.

Overall, Mr Ziegler said he was shocked by the fact that hunger is actually increasing worldwide.

Some 17,000 children die every day from hunger-related diseases, the report claims, calling the situation a scandal in a world that is richer than ever before.

"The silent daily massacre by hunger is a form of murder," Mr Ziegler said. "It must be battled and eliminated."




5.

From: http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20050329-073226-5866r.htm

Commentary: Iraq's tipping point

By Arnaud de Borchgrave

Washington, DC, Mar. 29 (UPI) -- During Saddam Hussein's blood-soaked rule, he ordered the ethnic cleansing of Kurds, the Arabization of their lands, and their forcible removal from Kirkuk, the northern Iraqi city that is the center of 40 percent of Iraq's oil reserves.

The Kurds, who are 20 percent of Iraq's 24 million people, thus lost control of a city they claim is theirs. They now want it back to make it the capital of their semi-autonomous Kurdish region, but both Sunni and Shia Iraqis are opposed and the stalemate could provide the spark for a much-feared civil war.

Brits, with long colonial experience in Iraq, say Kirkuk, not the insurgency, is the tipping point between success and failure for the U.S. attempt to introduce democratic rule. A coalition of Shiite Iraqis and another alliance of the two main groups of Kurds, who are not Arabs, between them garnered 215 seats in the 275-member National Assembly. The Sunnis, for the most, part boycotted the national elections last Jan. 30.

The Shiites have 140 seats, just shy of a majority. But they can count on support from small splinter factions to block the Kurds from seizing both Kirkuk and the surrounding oil wealth. But Kurds already control the Kirkuk City Council with 59 percent of the vote. They are determined to right the wrongs of the Saddam regime - by force if necessary. The Kurdish militia - the 80,000-strong peshmerga, which means "those who face death" - are the best troops in Iraq outside of coalition forces. They were also the only Iraqis to fight alongside U.S. forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom. They have done well against insurgents in the three mainly Kurdish northern provinces in Mosul, Kirkuk and Tal Afar.

Under an agreement reached last June, peshmerga were to disband and be absorbed into Iraq's army, security and police forces. Some now wear Iraqi uniforms, but they still consider themselves an autonomous Kurdish force. The authoritative London-based "Jane's Foreign Report (March 17) said, "For some time now, largely unnoticed by the outside world, there have been repeated clashes between the Kurds and their rivals in Kirkuk and other northern towns."

The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, said: "Tensions in the Kirkuk region, where the political ambitions, historical claims and economic interests of the principal communities - Kurds, Arabs, Turkomen and Chaldo-Assyrians - clash, have been escalating since U.S. forces toppled the Baathist regime in 2003. Violence is assuming a troubled pattern."

The ingredients for a civil war are in place. Such a conflict could rapidly escalate regionally, dragging in Turkey, Iran and Syria: Turkey, because it fears the emergence of an independent Kurdish state that would become a magnet for Turkish Kurds; Syria, because it also has a Turkish minority and would welcome an opportunity to sabotage America's democratic experiment; Iran, because it wants Iraq's Shia-dominated government to prevail.

The Kurds cannot recover their confiscated lands without dispossessing the Arabs who replaced them in the 1970s and 1980s. But the Kurds also hold a trump card short of hostilities. Under U.S. guidance, Iraq's new Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), written in 2004 by the Interim Governing Council, says a permanent constitution can be vetoed if three of the country's 18 provinces fail to ratify. The Kurds control three provinces in the north.

Jalal Talbani, one of two principal Kurdish leaders, was to become president of the new Iraq, a largely ceremonial post, and Shiite leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari the new prime minister. Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite with 40 seats in the National Assembly, who is still prime minister, may still be the compromise candidate to see Iraq through the rest of the year.

Whatever happens, the Kurds, who have known nothing but betrayal by the powers in the 20th century, are not about to give ground on Kirkuk and its oil revenues. Talbani calls the city "the Jerusalem of Kurdistan." Massoud Barzani, the other principal Kurdish leader, says, "We are ready to fight and sacrifice our soul to preserve (Kirkuk's) identity."

A unitary democratic Iraq is the U.S. goal. If the Kurds have their way, the Shias in the south would find salvation with 60 percent of Iraq's oil and a closer relationship with Iran. The Sunnis, high and dry in the center of the country, would take the insurgency to new heights of violence. The failure of negotiations would spell disaster.



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