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Shannon Airport; Fianna Fail help poison more than the irish environment...

 Depleted uranium: A crime against humanity and the environment .President Bush has let us know how important it is for him to maintain his physical fitness. During his nearly five-week vacation - minus several trips to shore up support for the war in Iraq - he was determined to keep up his fitness regimen on his 1,600-acre ranch outside Crawford, Texas. And who better to assist the president with his workout schedule than Lance Armstrong, the recently retired seven-time winner of the Tour de France, who went on a 15- mile bicycle ride with Bush near Crawford.

Bush is no doubt one of the most physically fit presidents in history. However, cogitative fitness ought to be an even higher priority than physical conditioning for a president who put the lives of U.S. servicemen and women in harm's way when he decided to invade Iraq. Nearly 1,900 U.S. troops have died, thousands more have been horribly wounded, tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and nearly $300 billion spent as a direct result of Bush's illfated decision to invade Iraq. We expect the person who occupies the office of the president of the United States to be a cut above average as far as his mental ability to make decisions, to solve problems, to make policy, and to draw logical inferences that make sense to us. Without intending to be humorous, Bush once said that his ''job is to think beyond the immediate.'' That's pretty important for a commander in chief. After all, the responsibilities of leadership and commandrequire not just the ability to think, but to think deeply, and to act in terms of long-range strategic consequences.

 Speaking of ''thinking beyond the immediate,'' I wonder how much time Bush spends thinking about the issue of depleted uranium, a substance that has a radioactive half-life of some 2.5 billion years. The United States has been using this terrible material in its munitions since the first Gulf War, and there is evidence that it has harmed and will continue to harm the lives of U.S. troops,radiation levels in downtown Baghdad that are 1,000 to 1,900 times higher than normal background radiation levels.''According to a recent column by Thomas Jefferson School of Law professor Marjorie Cohn (''Bush and the Bomb,'' Truthout.org, Aug. 10), ''although less spectacular and obvious than a mushroom cloud, the United States has used nuclear weapons - depleted uranium warheads - in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.  According to Cohn, ''The United States is committing ongoing crimes against humanity by its use of depleted uranium.'' From an indigenous perspective, the potential of depleted uranium to make entire regions of the globe, such as Iraq, virtually uninhabitable - along with the fact that depleted uranium contaminates the air, earth and water upon which we all depend - means that the use of depleted uranium by the United States constitutes a crime not just against humanity, but against the global environment. In October 2003, Bush himself stated: ''See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction.''

Given the United States' attack upon and invasion of Iraq, and given the fact that the United States has developed and used of weapons of mass destruction such as depleted uranium - based on Bush's own criteria, the United States is far from a ''free nation.'' The United States has expended some 1,000 tons of depleted uranium in Afghanistan and some 3,000 tons of depleted uranium in Iraq during this war. Radiation specialist and whistle-blower Leuren Moret has said that ''since 1991, the U.S. has released the radioactive equivalent of at least 400,000 Nagasaki bombs into the global atmosphere.'' This spewing of depleted uranium into the environment cannot possibly make the United States or any other part of the world ''free.'' Rather, it places the entire world in the grip of a toxic, radioactive force that is wreaking havoc on our beautiful planet.

Take, for example, Iraq. The radioactive sands in Iraq blow across the landscape. U.S. and other troops, and the Iraqi people, breathe radioactive dust into their nasal passages and lungs. Depleted uranium thereby enters their bodies and attacks at a molecular and genetic level. The result is a greater likelihood of various forms of cancer, organ disease and birth defects. Depleted uranium is also sexually transmitted and, as a result, depleted uranium attacks the woman's reproductive system and the fetus in the womb.Depleted uranium will continue to create shock waves of health maladies for generations to come. Just to give some idea of the scale of the problem, in some studies, of those U.S. troops who had healthy babies before the first Gulf War, some 67 percent had babies with birth defects after being in the war. Every mother and father, and every potential mother and father, ought to be outraged over this wanton and senseless destruction of life on Mother Earth. Yet where is the outrage?

Speaking of mothers, Cindy Sheehan and many other mothers and fathers of fallen U.S. soldiers traveled to Crawford, Texas to protest the war. Sheehan demanded a face-to-face meeting with Bush to ask him, ''For what noble cause did my son Casey die?'' Bush refused to see her, claiming that an earlier meeting with her would have to suffice.

Steven Newcomb

© Indian Country Today

 

Iraq witnesses testifying at trial of Shannon protestors speak to "Village" magazine.

'Shoot first, ask questions later'

by William hederman
Thursday, November 10, 2005

Two of the international witnesses who testified for the defence in the Ploughshares trial spoke to Village about US activity in Iraq

"It was a gross error of judgement on the part of the Irish Government to allow the Americans to use Shannon, particularly in regard to this act of aggression against the people of Iraq at the beginning of 2003. This invasion was never approved by the UN security council.

"For the Irish Government, which has such a good reputation in the UN, to support an activity that is in violation of international law is catastrophic for our standing in the world community.

"Ireland speaks with a voice much larger than its size. Our reputation in peacekeeping is outstanding, and justifiably so. So our Government is damaging all that, and they're also imposing on us, the Irish people, recognition that we have become collaborators with Mr Bush and his regime of war criminals. The Irish people don't want that, they don't deserve that. Our Government owes the people an apology, I think they should resign en masse."

"Anybody who sat through the trial and heard the testimony of the defendants could not fail to understand their sincerity. In Nazi Germany, if enough Germans had stood up and taken on Hitler, while they might not have won, they would be heroes. Well, these five constitute heroes. They had the courage to stand up and take on their Government.

"The next government will need to pay more attention to the realities of life and not expose the Irish to the responsibility for war crimes and being collaborators.

"Shock and awe is no better, no worse than suicide bombing in resistance, although you could argue that resistance is legitimate under the UN Charter (article 51), whereas invasion of sovereign states is not legitimate. So Mr Bush is a terrorist-plus.

"The Americans have destroyed Iraq, they've shredded its society, its cultural wealth. The child mortality rate has increased. That is a remarkable indictment. If we'd left the Iraqi people alone and had not imposed sanctions, they would have overthrown Saddam Hussein themselves. Sanctions helped to keep him in power."

"Basically the US military's intelligence reports painted the Iraqi citizen as a potential terrorist, so we were given carte blanche to shoot first and ask questions later, which resulted in over 30 civilian deaths, over a three-month time period, caused by my platoon (a platoon is 45 marines; I was the second-in-command). During the same period we killed maybe four enemy combatants.

"There was one particular incident near the Baghdad Stadium. A red Kia car came into our checkpoint, we gave the hand-and-arm signal, telling the vehicle to stop; we fired a warning shot. The vehicle did not stop. We ended up discharging our weapons into the vehicle. There were four passengers: three were hit and were expiring rapidly. That means dying. We ran over and started pulling the bodies out and searching the vehicle for weapons.

"The driver was miraculously unscathed and he began to question my marines why we had shot, because they weren't terrorists. They were dressed in western clothes. They weren't run-of-the-mill. They spoke good English. One of the passengers was the driver's brother. The driver approached me and said, 'why did you kill my brother? We're not terrorists.' At that point I had to make a conscious decision whether what we were doing was right or wrong. I felt that what we were doing was a violation of the Geneva Convention, that killing innocent civilians was not what I went into Iraq to do. I felt like a mercenary."

I honestly believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. I heard 11-and-a-half years of propaganda about his potential for making nuclear weapons while I was in the military. But after I got into Iraq and saw what the people and country were like, I began to change my mind regarding what we were doing there. Our primary mission when we went in was to secure oil fields. It wasn't a humanitarian mission or helping to establish a democracy or anything like that.

The first city I went into, Safwan, I expected to see a Third World country. That's not what I was met with. I was met with people treating us as liberators, bringing us food and tea. It reminded me of the old World War Two movies of soldiers going into France."

"When you go through marine boot camp, part of the process is to desensitise you to violence. I have no qualms about meeting the enemy on the battlefield and destroying him, but when there's no enemy, what are you doing there? What we were doing did not have a noble cause. Ultimately I felt there was very little resistance in Iraq and the killing of these civilians at these checkpoints only escalated the violence, because there were witnesses. I knew that in the Muslim culture, if you kill one of them, then they kill 100 of you. I was very critical of these civilian deaths."

"What the Catholic Worker Five did was a bold statement and a noble cause. Their actions have helped to bring Ireland into the spotlight in the rest of the world. Now Ireland has to make a decision: are they pro-war or anti-war? And ultimately Ireland's decision might affect a terrorist campaign.

"I testified in court today that I killed innocent civilians in Iraq, and I'm walking free from the court, while those five people tried to stop us and they face prison."

Jimmy Massey's book, Kill! Kill! Kill! has been published in French by Éditions Panama and is available on amazon.com. No American publisher has agreed to publish it. With the proceeds, Massey is starting a post-traumatic stress disorder fund for returning veterans

"The soldiers are not dying for the people-the people are dying for the soldiers"!

According to Mark Herold, an American professor who chronicled the death toll in Afghanistan in the period from October 2001 to March 2002 - the time during which the US bombed Afghanistan - there were over 3,000 civilian deaths as a result of the bombings alone. Obviously, there have been thousands of more deaths as a result of the ensuing war.

According to an organisation that keeps toll of the mass murder in Iraq (www.iraqbodycount.org), the number of civilian fatalities there since George W Bush announced on May 1, 2003 that ‘‘major combat operations have ended’’ have been 30,260 up to March 1, 2006. The number of civilian fatalities since then has been in the region of 500, giving a total of almost 31,000.

The Lancet has estimated that a far higher number of people, 100,000, have lost their lives in Iraq because of the invasion, not all directly because of the violence.

Aside from that, there has been ‘‘mass murder on an unimaginable scale’’ going on in Israel/Palestine year-on-year, now coupled with mass murder in Lebanon. According to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, the number of people killed in Palestine/Israel in the last six years is 4,157.

If the killing of 2,000 is ‘‘mass murder on an unimaginable scale’’, what is the killing of over 4,000 in Palestine/Israel, the killing of 31,000 or 100,000 in Iraq and the killing of 3,000 civilians in a few months in Afghanistan, as a result of terror bombing by the US?

In what respect are these comparisons invalid? Do Afghan, Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi lives matter less than the lives of those likely to be passengers on flights from London to America? Is there something more morally reprehensible in terrorists blowing themselves and innocent people to bits on an airliner, than in pilots at the controls of secure aircraft unleashing bombs on innocent people on the ground and blowing them to bits? Or is the cause of America, Britain and Israel ‘just’ in a way that the cause of those who are combating them is not?

America, Britain and Israel are engaged in a war, they say, against ‘‘terror’’ and, in so engaging, deploy far more terror than those against whom they fight, or rather, against the civilians in those countries that America, Britain and Israel target. Is that just?

America, Britain and Israel are engaged in the protection and maintenance of Israel, whose very origins are soaked in injustice. Israel was founded on the terrorising of the indigent Arab population of Palestine, the banishment of this population from their lands and their expulsion to refugee camps around the Middle East.

This was instigated by Britain and aided and abetted by the Americans. This historic and monstrous injustice is at the heart of all that is happening today in the conflict between the ‘West’ and, increasingly, much of the Islamic world. Were it possible to undo that injustice now in its entirety, that is what should happen, but the passing of time has made that impossible - or at least impractical.

But, at the very least, the historic injustice should and must impel a settlement that leans in the interests of the Palestinians: that guarantees them a viable sovereign state; that guarantees the right of the refugees to return to their lands, or at least fair and adequate compensation for the loss of their lands; that frees Jerusalem with Israeli control, perhaps replaced by some kind of international suzerainty; that removes all Israeli settlements from the West Bank; that removes the iniquitous wall; that frees all Palestinian prisoners; and that affords a generous aid package from the international community for the regeneration of Palestinian territories.

This, in return for an acceptance of the Israeli state and an acquiescence in the occupation of that part of Palestine that formed the Israeli state prior to 1967.

On its own, that would defuse not just the Arab-Israeli problem, but would take some of the heat out of the anger of Muslims throughout the Middle East and Far East.

Since September 11, the US has made little effort to understand the anger that caused that atrocity in the first place, and, as a result, done nothing to defuse that anger.

Instead, it has stoked that anger further by the lying pretext on which it invaded a largely Islamic state, Iraq.

Then there was the brutal bombing and (partial) subjugation of Afghanistan, and now the support for Israeli mass murder in Gaza and Lebanon.

Even if, for now, airplanes are not to be blown from the skies and ‘‘mass murder on an unimaginable scale’’ perpetrated, this will happen sooner or later.

The seeds of anger have been sown amid the hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world, from whose communities there must be hundreds of thousands of willing volunteers ready and able to take the war to the new ‘crusaders’.

And for those who think we face a uniquely evil phenomenon inspired by an implacable warrior religion, let us remember that we draw from the same religious source: the Bible.

sbpost@iol.ie

www.DemocracyUprising.com

Remembering Romero Remembering Romero
With a White House that uses El Salvador as a model for Iraq, we still have much to learn from the assassination of Archbishop Romero twenty-five years ago.
By Mark Engler
Published on March 18, 2005

Twenty-five years ago, on March 24, 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero was shot down while celebrating Mass in San Salvador. In the years before his murder, Romero had emerged as an outspoken defender of the Salvadoran poor, making him one of the best-known embodiments of the liberation theology that was infusing new life into the Catholic Church in Latin America in the '70s and '80s.

Today we would do well to remember Romero as an example of moral courage in a time of war. But his story is also significant because El Salvador has repeatedly been used by the current Bush administration as a parallel for the situation in Iraq.

During El Salvador's long conflict, which stretched from the late 1970s to 1992, the country's government and its paramilitary death squads murdered some 75,000 citizens. A 1993 U.N.-sponsored Truth Commission confirmed that these forces made a special point of attacking political dissidents, trade unionists, religious ministers, and human rights workers.

Romero was resolute in his response to this situation. He insisted on the need to "denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery" of the people. When his priests were targeted as part of the official repression, Romero unflinchingly stated, "I am glad… that they have murdered priests in this country, because it would be very sad if in a country where they are murdering the people so horrifically, there were no priests among the victims.”

The day before he was killed, Romero made a "special appeal" in his Sunday sermon, in which he called upon soldiers to "[obey] your consciences rather than a sinful order." In words broadcast by radio across the country, he said, "I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression."

Romero's pleas were directed not only at the Salvadoran army, but also at the United States.

Regrettably, the U.S. had a significant role in supporting the government responsible for rampant human rights abuses. Six weeks before his death, Romero wrote to President Jimmy Carter, warning that increased military aid would "undoubtedly sharpen the injustice and the repression inflicted on the organized people, whose struggle has often been for their most basic human rights." Carter, wary of being tagged with "another Nicaragua," ignored the plea.

Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush later sent hundreds of millions of dollars worth of armaments, aid, and advisers. When the Salvadoran regime put this support to murderous use, officials like Elliott Abrams built their careers by denying, obscuring, or minimizing the harrowing abuses. (Today, Abrams is the newly appointed deputy national security adviser to the current President Bush, responsible for coordinating the administration's efforts to "advance democracy" abroad.)

All this might be relegated to the annals of Cold War history, except that, in past months, officials including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have held up El Salvador as a model of successful U.S. intervention, relevant to Iraq and Afghanistan. They cite the early 1980s Salvadoran elections the U.S. helped stage -- neglecting to mention that these were farces in which voting was mandatory and opposition party members were targets for repression. Moreover, the atrocity-laden conflict continued for a decade afterward before peace accords were adopted. That's hardly a desirable route when mapped onto the situation in Iraq.

More troubling still is what these references reveal about the understanding of the Cold War that now prevails in Washington and beyond. Romero's martyrdom has done little to alter conservatives' view that the Latin American "dirty wars" were a matter, in the words of The Weekly Standard, of "totalitarianism vs. democracy -- the Soviet bloc vs. the Free World." Hawks lambaste anyone, from Romero to John Kerry, who dared link uprisings in Central America with "socioeconomic factors such as poverty."

As the Cold War itself is resurrected as a model for the "war on terror," El Salvador's guerillas become "terrorists," and U.S. support for military governments is blanketed over with Bush's rhetorical assertion that "from the day of our founding" America has pursued the "great objective of ending tyranny."

In remembering Romero, our challenge is to promote a new narrative of the Cold War that provides a realistic assessment of America's past actions and asserts that a true commitment to freedom demands self-examination. Until our country comes to terms with its role in the history of El Salvador's conflict, we will be condemned to accept a vision of U.S. infallibility that neither allows us to appreciate Archbishop Romero's moral example, nor to ensure that events like those that led to his murder will never be repeated.

One of the web,s best sites..believe it.    www.DemocracyUprising.com

If it,s courage you respect check out; http://www.freetalifahima.org/eng.php?lang=en

Jesuits in "El Salvador"...

Remembering James McPolin SJ
Michael O'Sullivan's homily at the funeral of James McPolin SJ (2005) R.I.P.
by Michael O'Sullivan SJ

About two years ago Jimmy said to me that he felt most alive and of most use during the years he was in El Salvador (1989-96) – despite the awful suffering among the people and the deadly danger that shadowed his own life. He went there straight after his term as President of Milltown Institute (1983-89). He did so because of his commitment to and companionship with the God whose love makes the promotion of justice an absolute requirement.

Jimmy had hardly arrived in the country when six Jesuits, a woman (Elba Julia) and her daughter (Celina), were murdered by an army death squad at the Jesuit residence on the grounds of the University of San Salvador. The Jesuits were murdered because of their commitment to the faith that does justice; the women, who had taken refuge with the Jesuits after their home had been damaged by gunfire, were killed so as to leave no witnesses. Jimmy could have been among the dead that night, 16 November 1989, given that he had deferred accepting an invitation to stay with the Jesuit community at the University until he had spent more time among the ordinary people. (2) Afterwards his concern to see justice done in the case of his dead Jesuit companions and the two women was viewed by him as a way also of promoting justice for the people of the country. In a letter to members of his family in Ireland in 1990 he wrote: "The future of justice is obfuscated by the fact that the trial of the soldiers for the killings is being impeded by false evidence of the military and by the collusion of the American Embassy and Government."

You may be aware of the memorial bell on the Milltown avenue in front of the Irish School of Ecumenics building. It was put up in honour of those who were killed that night. One of the dead Jesuits, Amando Lopez, had studied theology at Milltown, and was ordained to the priesthood in this chapel. You can see him in the 1965 ordination photo on the corridor outside this chapel. Another of the dead Jesuits, Ignacio Ellacuria, had done part of his Jesuit formation in Dublin as an ordained priest. The memorial bell will also always be a reminder of the third president of the Institute and the values that took him to El Salvador at that time. Jimmy also narrowly escaped death at a subsequent date when he found himself under the table while army bullets were sprayed around the room. He was the pastor of San Antonio Abad parish, where a predecessor, and several young people on retreat, had been slain by the army in 1979.

Bush-lost without Bertie.!

Wednesday, 7th June, 2006 

The Fianna Fail Government colluded in illegal detention and alleged torture by failing to investigate claims that Shannon Airport was used for so-called rendition flights, an international inquiry has found.

The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly headed by Swiss politician Dick Marty found that Ireland was complicit by accepting diplomatic assurances from the US that Shannon was not used by covert CIA planes for transferring the prisoners.

The report found that prisoners were illegally captured and flown around North Africa and Europe to centres of detention and sometimes tortured.

Mr Marty said that an unspecified number of people, "deemed to be members or accomplices of terrorist movements, were arbitrarily and unlawfully arrested and/or detained and transported under the supervision of services acting in the name, or on behalf, of the American authorities".

"These incidents took place in airports and in European airspace, and were made possible either by seriously negligent monitoring or by the more or less active participation of one or more states".

"There has clearly been a critical deviation away from notions of justice in the rendition programme ... The absence of human rights guarantees and the introduction of 'enhanced interrogation techniques' have led ... to detainees being subjected to torture."

Ireland colluded in this by invoking the "principle of trust" when pushed to investigate claims that US planes were using Shannon to facilitate the transfer of prisoners, the report found.

Today's report incorporated a Council of Europe legal opinion which found that under the Chicago Convention, states have were obliged under international law to search planes suspected of being involved in the violation of human rights.

In the report's explanatory memorandum Mr Marty says states "could be held responsible for collusion - active or passive (in the sense of having tolerated or having been negligent in fulfilling the duty to supervise) - involving secret detention and unlawful inter-state transfers".

Mr Marty named 14 European countries, including Ireland, which colluded in a "global spider's web" of secret CIA prisons and renditions.

Shannon is identified as a "stop-over point" for flights on routes from Washington to Rabat in Morocco, Egyptian capital, Cairo and Larnaca in Cyprus.

Stop-overs were defined as: "points at which aircraft land to refuel, mostly on the way home [from rendition operations]".

Larnaca was categorised as a staging point "where operations are often launched".

Rabat and Cairo were identified as a "detainee transfer / drop-off point". These were defined as" "places visited often, where flights tend to stop for just short periods, mostly far off the obvious route - either their location is close to a site of a known detention facility or a prima facie case can be made to indicate a detention facility in their vicinity)".

Amnesty International has alleged that between September 2001 and September 2005, Shannon was used on 50 occasions by CIA planes disguised as commercial airlines.

Washington has acknowledged the existence of rendition flights but Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice issued public assurances that Ireland was not involved.

The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern accepted these, saying there was therefore no need to inspect suspect flights.

Mr Marty said the extent of public suspicions "not only justify, but require that member States finally decide to open serious inquiries on the extent to which they were directly or indirectly implicated."

Bertie&Blair& Bush,two monkeys and the organ grinder.

Nicaragua-the poorest of the poor-Bush,s worst enemy.?

New from www.DemocracyUprising.com...
 

______________________________

The Return of Daniel Ortega
Despite Ortega's many flaws, the return of the Sandinistas to power creates the possibility that his challenge to the "savage capitalism" of the previous regime can genuinely benefit Nicaragua's poor.

By Mark Engler


If you listen to right-wing pundits and Republican officials, the return to power of former revolutionary Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua is not evidence of democracy in action but rather an invitation to Communist tyranny, terrorism and even nuclear holocaust. It appears that on November 5 Nicaraguans went to the polls and committed the sin of selecting a leader not in favor with the White House. With more than 60 percent of the votes now counted, Ortega has won 39 percent, while his nearest rival, right-wing banker Eduardo Montealegre of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance, holds only 31 percent. In the five-way race for the presidency, this margin is enough to hand a victory to Ortega's Sandinista-led coalition, giving the political party control of the executive for the first time since 1990.

 A statistical sample of polling places suggests that Ortega's lead will hold, and this likelihood has prodded US conservatives into some fits of fantastically overblown rhetoric. At the National Review, former Reagan and George H.W. Bush speechwriter Mark Klugmann writes, "a Nicaragua that opens its arms to murderous radicalism poses a threat for America and the world.... A nuclear North Korea and a nuclear Iran could be in position, with an ally so close to our porous frontier, to wreak the havoc we once thought only the Soviet Union could ever bring home."

 Of course, the fantasy that a small, poor and geopolitically marginal Central American nation could be a major threat to US national security is a throwback to cold war-era propaganda films like Red Dawn. It reflects the current foreign policy mindset of Washington conservatives but does not resemble anything like reality.

 The return of Daniel Ortega to Nicaragua's presidency hardly portends a menacing new danger for the US heartland. It does, however, mark two important developments in the rise of an increasingly independent Latin America. First, given concerted efforts on the part of the Bush Administration to influence the outcome of the election, it signals that US threats of retaliation may no longer be sufficient to keep Central American citizens from voting for leaders willing to buck Washington's economic program. Second, in spite of Ortega's standing as a deeply compromised political figure, his election provides a modest opening for hope that a new Nicaraguan administration might do a better job of addressing the country's endemic poverty than have the past sixteen years of neoliberal rule.

 The scare stories spun by conservative pundits like Klugmann echo the only somewhat more subtle alarmism voiced by Republican lawmakers in the lead-up to the Nicaraguan elections. In recent years, the White House has chosen to remain silent during many electoral contests in Latin America. This does not reflect a newfound respect for democratic self-determination; it is pragmatic. Washington learned the hard way that its admonitions can backfire when delivered to Latin America voters fed up with having economic policy dictated from the North--as was the case in Bolivia in 2002, when US attacks on Evo Morales helped him gain the stature that would ultimately propel him to the presidency this year. However, the United States has maintained an overt involvement in some elections, especially in cold-war hot spots Nicaragua and El Salvador.

 Bush Administration efforts over the past year to prevent the Nicaraguan electorate from choosing Ortega were particularly heavy-handed. Violating diplomatic protocol, US Ambassador Paul Trivelli expressed an open preference for Ortega's opponents, and he made repeated efforts to unite the Nicaraguan right around a single candidate. (He failed, and the divide among Nicaraguan conservatives helped pave the way for the Sandinistas' victory.) Adding to Trivelli's meddling, US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez suggested that more than $220 million in aid and hundreds of millions more in investments could be jeopardized if voters picked the wrong candidate.

 In the last week of the campaign, several Republican members of Congress stepped up the threats. Most radically, they proposed to block the stream of money sent from Nicaraguan immigrants in the United States to impoverished family members back home in Central America. In an October 30 letter to Nicaraguan Ambassador Salvador Stadthagen, Representative Tom Tancredo wrote, "if the FSLN takes control of the government in Nicaragua, it may be necessary for the United States authorities to examine closely and possibly apply special controls to the flow of $850 million in remittances from the United States to Nicaragua--unfortunately to the detriment of many people living in Nicaragua." In a public letter addressed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Representatives Ed Royce and Peter Hoekstra added, "We share US Ambassador to Nicaragua Paul Trivelli's assessment that an Ortega victory would force the United States to fully 're-evaluate' relations with Nicaragua."

 With the memory of the United States' debilitating economic embargo of the 1980s still fresh, Nicaraguan voters do not take suggestions of retaliation from Washington lightly. In 1990 the United States made clear that its embargo, as well as funding for terrorist contra forces, would continue if Ortega were re-elected. This blackmail played a decisive role in pushing the Sandinistas from office.

 Ironically, even as the White House portrays Ortega as a committed and unrepentant leftist, the real concern is whether he has fully compromised the progressive ideals he once espoused as a leader in the movement that overthrew Nicaragua's longstanding Somoza dictatorship. Ortega has been criticized by former partisans for keeping a tight hold on the leadership of the Sandinistas, quashing efforts to democratize the party and expelling members like former Managua Mayor Herty Lewites, who announced intentions to challenge Ortega's power. In the 1990s, many of the most prominent cultural and intellectual figures in the Sandinista movement, including liberation theologian and poet Ernesto Cardenal, poet and novelist Gioconda Belli and Ortega's former Vice President Sergio Ramirez, broke ranks to form a dissident party, the Sandinista Renovation Movement. In the first half of this year, Lewites made a strong showing as that party's presidential candidate, but he suffered a massive heart attack and died in July, crippling the Renovation Movement's efforts for the election cycle.

 Beyond internal strife within the Sandinistas, Ortega's record has been marred by public scandals. In 1998 a grown stepdaughter, Zoilamerica Narvaez, accused Ortega of sexually abusing her for years, starting when she was an adolescent. The following year, Ortega brokered a pact with then-president Arnoldo Aleman, who was facing charges of corruption. El pacto, as the shady deal is ominously known in Nicaragua, allowed both men to avoid prosecution by granting them parliamentary immunity. It also made Ortega into one of the country's most weighty power brokers by giving him control over many governmental appointments. While el pacto remains in place, Aleman was later stripped of his immunity and is now under house arrest, having been convicted of embezzling some $100 million from the government.

 Despite Ortega's many flaws, the return of the Sandinistas to power creates the possibility of change that can genuinely benefit Nicaragua's poor. Ortega campaigned on a platform criticizing the "savage capitalism" implemented by the successive conservative governments that have ruled the country over the past sixteen years. In the decade and a half since the end of the contra war, neoliberal economic policies like privatizing public industries and creating "free trade" zones have failed to launch an economic recovery. Today Nicaragua ranks with Haiti and Bolivia among the poorest nations in the hemisphere.

It remains to be seen what Ortega's political program will look like during his new term as president: whether he can be held accountable to the impoverished populations he claims to represent and whether his party can reverse trends of deepening hardship and desperation. But this is no reason not to applaud Nicaraguan voters who stood up to Republican threats, rejected a continuation of neoliberalism and demanded better of their government.


--Mark Engler, a writer based in New York City, is an analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus. He can be reached via the web site http://www.DemocracyUprising.com. Research assistance for this article provided by Fernando Braga.

"An eye for an eye and the whole world is blinded"

If you have arrived at this page you must click on the following interview between morning Ireland ( Radio Eireann) and an Israeli spokesperson for the war crimes perpetrated on Lebanon.   http://dynamic.rte.ie/av/2169182.smil

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Tom McGurk in the Sunday business Post.

Fully equipped with the latest weapons (including a nuclear facility) from the US, and trained by the Americans, the IDF has enjoyed military supremacy for generations.

That fact has been a defining element in Israeli foreign policy, not least with regard to the Palestinian crisis.

The military has become so powerful in Israel that one leading political commentator wrote from Tel Aviv: ‘‘One wonders whether we have a state with an accompanying army or just an army with an accompanying state?”

During the first Palestinian intifada some years ago, Haaretz, one of Israel’s leading daily papers, editorialised: ‘‘The IDF, which brought up generations of soldiers on the myth of the purity of arms and educated its commanders with the idea of the moral, deliberating soldier, who takes tough decisions, while thinking of humane considerations, is turning into a killing machine whose efficiency is awe-inspiring, yet shocking.”

As the United Nations-sponsored ceasefire in Lebanon began last Monday morning, the scale of the failure of the IDF to smash Hezbollah began to emerge. The IDF’s casualty figures far exceeded expectations and Hezbollah had been able to launch its highest-ever number of rockets in a single day into Israel on the last day of the war. The implications of these facts could not be hidden by the political rhetoric from Tel Aviv.

Taking perhaps the Viet Cong as its logistical and strategic mentor, Hezbollah, with an elaborate series of underground tunnels and secret launching sites hidden in the rocky terrain, managed to confound ground and air attacks.

With its new Iranian-supplied guided anti-tank missiles, IDF armour was neutralised and IDF troops were regularly ambushed on the ground in territory that Hezbollah was familiar with.

Perhaps most disturbingly of all for the morale of the IDF, it was fighting an enemy that was actively seeking martyrdom.

This is largely an unknown phenomenon for western armies and has created a whole series of battlefield logistics that have never been anticipated or trained against. Fighting heavily-armed guerillas on a terrain carefully chosen is difficult enough, but fighting heavily-armed ‘‘suicide bombers’’ in their chosen terrain is a whole new concept of war.

Among the ranks of the IDF, the crisis this created in morale was visible, despite army-imposed censorship of television coverage.

There were even complaints from senior officers that the army didn’t fight like the IDF of old.

This is due to the fact that, in recent years, the IDF had begun to reflect Israel’s worldwide Jewish immigrant policies and hence is now made up of conscripts who are recent citizens of the state.

Apart from the military crisis, there can be little political satisfaction for Israel in the possible longer-term implications of its Lebanese adventure. First, the IDF had forgotten that this was not the West Bank or Gaza, and that the world press was on hand to report the cruelty with which Israel conducted the war against Lebanese civilians and infrastructure.

Prosecuting any war in the age of 24-hour news coverage has created a host of new problems, but the IDF seemed to forget thiat the aftermath of almost everything it did was on the evening television news bulletins before the smoke had cleared.

Initially, Washington had been deliberately stalling a ceasefire resolution at the UN in the hope that the IDF could ‘finish the job in time’, but there is no doubt that, in the end, even Washington had to take account of mounting world opinion against the war and call a halt. Remarkably, for once even the US state department seemed to sense that the Israeli action was damaging wider US interests.

Secondly, there is now considerable evidence that the long history of Israeli actions in Lebanon has caused a long-term strategic disaster.

The invasion of Lebanon more than 20 years ago was apparently about destroying the PLO. Whatever about the destruction of the PLO, which was a largely secular nationalist movement, the longer-term effect was to replace Israel’s bitter enemy, the PLO, with Hezbollah, a jihadic Islamist army and an even more extreme movement.

Now, members of Hezbollah have become heroes for Lebanese society, giving it a unity of national purpose never known before.

Pictures of the Lebanese army being greeted this week like conquering heroes by the residents of Hezbollah-dominated villages in southern Lebanon must have at least given Israel pause for thought.

The prospect that the Lebanese army will want to, or even be able to, disarm Hezbollah is pure Tel Aviv fantasy.

It is small wonder that the UN is finding it so difficult to persuade the international community to send its soldiers in as UN peacekeepers or a disarming force.

How long the current ceasefire will last is anyone’s guess, but this weekend you can be sure that Israeli political and military strategists have many unanswered questions to contemplate.

Not only that, but the US must be contemplating the wider implications for its unquestioning ‘‘client state’’ relationship with Israel.

Hezbollah has turned some sort of corner but just where it is now is still difficult to read.