Current Events

Special Report on Iraq

The former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, and six subordinates were convicted and sentenced Sunday for the 1982 killings of 148 people in a single Shiite town after an attempt on his life there. The death sentences automatically go to a nine-judge appeals panel, which has unlimited time to review the case. If the verdicts and sentences are upheld, the executions must be carried out within 30 days. The Iraqi president Jalal Talabani said Monday that he wouldn’t sign Saddam’s death sentence. However, he emphasized that his personal signature was not necessary for it to be carried out. Saddam Hussein was appearing in court again on Tuesday in a separate genocide trial investigating the Anfal campaign of 1987-88 during which up to 180,000 Kurds died.

The worldwide reaction to Saddam’s death penalty was mixed and brought into focus the failed attempts of the United States to bring peace and democracy to Iraq, as well as the American inability to prove the accuracy of the stated reasons for beginning the war in the first place. Der Spiegel Online wrote on November 7 that “Europe [was] united in opposition” to the verdict.

World Leaders Say Their Peace

The Associated Press wrote the following on November 5 about the reactions of world leaders to Saddam’s conviction and sentence:

“… The White House praised the Iraqi judicial system and denied the U.S. had been ‘scheming’ to have the historic verdict announced two days before American midterm elections, widely seen as a referendum on the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq… symbolic of the split between the United States and many of its traditional allies over the Iraq war, many European nations voiced opposition to the death sentences in the case, including France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden… Lost in the drama of Sunday’s death sentence was any mention of the failed search for the alleged weapons of mass destruction that Bush said led the United States to invade and occupy Iraq in March 2003.”

In a related article, The Associated Press stated: “At the Vatican, Cardinal Renato Martino, Pope Benedict XVI’s top prelate for justice issues, called the sentence a throwback to ‘eye for an eye’ vengeance… Intervening militarily was ‘a grave error,’ said Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose country withdrew its troops from Iraq, contending that conditions there have worsened since the U.S.-led invasion… The Council of Europe called it ‘futile and wrong’ to execute Saddam… Iran, which fought an eight-year war against Saddam’s Iraq and is a bitter opponent of the United States, praised the death sentence.”

Reuters added in its article of November 5:

“The European Union urged Iraq on Sunday not to carry out the death sentence… ‘The EU opposes capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances, and it should not be carried out in this case either,’ Finland, current holder of the rotating EU presidency, said in a statement…

Der Spiegel Online wrote on November 6:

“The conviction of Saddam Hussein is dividing the world… Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said: ‘The condemnation reflects the judgment of the entire international community. But however ferocious a crime may be, our traditions and our ethics distance us from the concept of a death penalty.’ German Chancellor Angela Merkel pointed out that the EU opposes the death sentence. ‘But it’s right and important that the courts deal with Saddam Hussein’s deeds.'”

The magazine also reported that the Foreign Ministers of Italy and France appealed to the Iraqi government not to execute Saddam. Surprisingly, even Tony Blair, when pressed by journalists, commented that “he was against the death penalty, including against Saddam Hussein… thereby rejecting the position of his war-ally, George W. Bush.” In typical political fashion he went on to say, however, that the issue was an internal Iraqi affair.

This last sentiment was echoed by the U.S. government. According to AFP of November 7, “US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rejected criticism from European and other allies over the death sentence… ‘This is not something for Americans or, frankly, Europeans to comment on. I think this is something for Iraqis to decide,’ Rice said in a television interview… Rice also angrily rejected suggestions Washington had manipulated the timing of the Saddam verdict, which came two days before crucial US elections.”

A.P. added on November 6 that due to the verdict, “the divide between Shiite and Sunni” in Iraq was “widening.”  It also mentioned in its article of November 5 that “Shiites and Kurds, who had been tormented and killed in the tens of thousands under Saddam’s iron rule, erupted in celebration–but looked ahead fearfully for a potential backlash from the Sunni insurgency that some believe could be a final shove into all-out civil war.” AFP commented on November 7 that “The verdict served only to deepen Iraq’s bitter religious divide.”

Strong Accusations from Human Rights Groups

Reuters stated on November 5: “Human rights groups and legal experts have called the year-long trial, during which three defence lawyers were killed, deeply flawed.” According to The Associated Press, Amnesty International actually said it “deplored” the sentence, and condemned the trial as a “shabby affair, marred by serious flaws” which had not met basic international standards. According to Der Spiegel Online, dated November 7, “A United Nations legal expert has likewise urged the Iraqi government not to carry out the death sentence. Leandro Despouy, the UN special investigator on the independence of judges and lawyers, questioned the fairness of the trial and called for an international tribunal to either retry Saddam or handle the appeals process.”

What The International Press Thinks…

The reaction of the international press to the verdict was sharply divided as well. As AFP pointed out on November 6, “The world’s media has been torn between applause for the death penalty given dictator Saddam Hussein and warnings that killing him would only exacerbate divisions threatening to destroy Iraq.” The article continued:

“The New York Times called for Saddam’s execution to be deferred, saying his trial had given Iraq ‘neither the full justice nor the full fairness it deserved’… Europe’s press reaction broadly reflected where the countries or individual newspapers stood on the Iraq invasion. ‘It’s a shame the verdict can give the impression of legitimizing a military intervention taken under false pretexts, when it should be before all else a founding act for a state based on the rule of law after 24 years of dictatorship,’ said Le Figaro in France, a fierce critic of the war.

“In Britain, the main US ally in the Iraq invasion, the response ranged between the tabloid Sun’s gloating over Saddam’s ‘fitting’ sentence to strong criticism in the broadsheets.The Guardian said that if ‘a new Iraq is to ever … emerge from the ruins of the old, eschewing judicial murder would be a good start.’ The Independent lamented that the trial had ‘solved nothing, ended nothing, healed nothing.’

“Some European papers saw the trial as a missed opportunity, arguing that hearings under an international tribunal would have delivered justice better, while the faulted process in Iraq was only likely to fuel fighting. The Berliner Zeitung said it should have been a ‘historic chance’ to learn about the brutalities of Saddam’s rule and help the nation move on. ‘Instead of that, the trial was manipulated by the occupational forces.'”

Schröder’s Point of View on Iraq

In his memoirs, which were published at the end of October, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder recalls the difficult period during the run-up to the Iraq war. On November 6, Der Spiegel Online introduced excerpts from Schröder’s book as follows:

“The trans-Atlantic Ice Age was intense. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and US President George W. Bush — close allies during the post-Sept. 11 offensive in Afghanistan — had nothing but disdain for each other when it came to Iraq. On Aug. 1, 2002 Schröder elected to take the final step in severing his relationship to the president. With an eye on autumn elections, he promised that Germany would not take part in a US-led military ‘adventure’ in Iraq. The statement marked the start of a major diplomatic rift between Washington and Berlin — one that is still being mended today.”

One can safely say that without the Iraq war, the relationship between the United States and Germany would have been much better.

Der Spiegel Online continued as follows:

“Cheney gave a firebrand speech on Aug. 26, 2002 in Tennessee that Schröder describes in his memoir as a ‘tough one,’ a ‘carefully prepared bit of agitation for the coming conflict.’ Cheney infamously claimed that ‘only idiots or cowards could possibly believe’ the invasion was avoidable. With US special forces unable to capture al-Qaida head Osama bin Laden, Schröder suggests the CIA was eager to shift focus to Saddam Hussein — America’s ‘sworn enemy’ in Cheney’s words. ‘To justify this change in strategy,’ he writes, ‘Cheney turned mere assumptions into certainties.’ Cheney also predicted in the speech that Saddam’s collapse would give people a chance to ‘promote values that can bring lasting peace’ and that the people of Basra and Baghdad would cheer the American soldiers when they arrived. ‘What a string of miscalculations!’ Schröder writes. ‘Cheney was never held accountable for any of these mistakes — or perhaps they were deliberate distortions?'”

The magazine went on to point out:

“During those crucial months, the United Nations’ chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, was busy criss-crossing Iraq with his team searching fruitlessly for weapons of mass destruction. Schröder says that Blix’s inspection reports had often been used in top-level discussions about Iraq in Berlin. He describes the results of Blix’s work as clear: ‘There were no traces of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.’ The ex-chancellor describes Blix as having maintained a ‘stoic and unwavering stance’ during his thorough inspections and writes that he ‘continue(s) to respect’ that work today. Schröder also found the political campaign waged against Blix by the Bush administration to be deeply troubling…

“Jan. 30, 2003 proved to be a watershed day for European Union relations. Under domestic pressure at home in a country where the majority opposed an Iraq war, Tony Blair’s government sought signatures of prime ministers of seven other European countries for a letter that offered indirect support for the imminent invasion of Iraq. The letter served as a snub for Germany, France and other Western European Countries that had been critical of the calls for war. ‘As much as I could understand the new EU members from Eastern Europe who, for historical reasons, wanted to take sides with the United States, I was equally unable to recognize any even remotely equivalent legitimacy behind the other EU states signing the document.’ The letter, published in newspapers across Europe, drove a wedge between EU countries and spoiled hopes for a common European foreign policy. Three of the signatories were new EU member states from Eastern Europe. ‘What an opportunity we missed with all these quarrels!,’ he laments. ‘A united European stance could have contributed to dissuading America from making a fatal mistake.’

“On Feb. 5, Colin Powell gave his famous speech before the UN in which he laid out the case for the invasion of Iraq. It was only after this that France officially teamed with Berlin and became part of the anti-war alliance… Days later, millions took to the streets across Europe and the world to protest the coming war — including a half million in Berlin…

“Looking to the current state of affairs in Iraq, Schröder sees the recent rebellion of top retired US military generals as a sign that ‘Americans are beginning to deal with the lack of rationality within the government and among its representatives.’ Schröder ventures that the time to start thinking about a pullout has arrived. ‘Perhaps the time has come to encourage the United States to leave Iraq. However, this would require immense strategic preparation that would have to enable all parties involved to save face, and would also include safe withdrawal of the troops.’ This, he argues, would require a ‘peace initiative that takes away support for the terrorists and discourages them.’ He argues the US will be unable to achieve this on its own. ‘Europe and, if possible, another worldwide coalition, including the Arab countries and Israel, would have to be involved. We must begin paving the way now, otherwise we run the risk of terrorists establishing additional footholds worldwide. If that happens, there will be more at stake than a trans-Atlantic spat.'”

Iraq has become an absolutely unbearable burden for the United States and its very few allies–much worse, in a sense, than Vietnam, as the dangers involved are so much greater. The whole world might be set on fire because of an idle attempt to bring democracy to a terribly divided country. Swift concerted action is necessary, but, as Schröder rightly fears, very unlikely. Please make sure to read our member letter, dated November 8, 2006, which discusses the fiasco in Iraq and the reasons for it in more detail.

A Major Catastrophe Is Imminent

Der Spiegel Online wrote on November 6:

“Vesuvius has been quiet for the last 62 years — and that’s cause for concern. Italian authorities are preparing for the next eruption of the most dangerous volcano in the world.”

The magazine continued:

“The ground south of Mt. Vesuvius has been shaken by tremors 52 times during the last 24 hours… Three hundred tons of sulfur dioxide have spewed out of the crater. Other ominous signs of an impending catastrophe are mounting: The coast guard has sighted gaseous bubbles in the sea, and dead fish are floating on the waves. The water in the boroughs of Ercolano and Torre del Greco tastes sourer and sourer. And, as if that weren’t enough, GPS stations have observed that the ground in the region is rising — by no less than 20 centimetres (8 inches) in a single day. ‘No doubt about it, the magma is rising,’ [Italian researcher Franco] Barberi concludes…  Barberi speaks of a ‘dramatic acceleration of events.’ The evacuation has to begin immediately, he says — tonight…

“Nowhere else on the planet do so many people live in the death zone… Some 55,000 people live by the foot of Vesuvius — in towns that have crept farther and farther upward along the volcano’s fertile slopes during the past decades. Hardly any other region of Europe is as densely populated — and construction work is ongoing. Fifty thousand new buildings were built here during the past 20 years — even including a hospital in the town of Torre Annunziata… Vesuvius has been slumbering for 62 years now — and that’s a bad sign, according to the volcanologists. After all, each of the volcano’s major eruptions occurred at the end of such a calm period. The rule of thumb seems to be: The longer the volcano remains outwardly peaceful, the worse the disaster being prepared in its innards.”

In this context, you might want to view one of our older StandingWatch programs, titled, “The Last Days of Pompeii.”

Worst Drought in 1,000 Years

AFP reported on November 7 that “The world’s driest inhabited continent was in the grip of the worst drought in 1,000 years, a river management expert told Australia’s political leaders… The drought has already been described variously as the worst in living memory, the worst in a century and the worst since white settlement more than two centuries ago… statistics showed that the country’s most important river system, within the Murray-Darling Basin, could run out of water in six months, after six years of drought. About 30 rivers and hundreds of tributaries run across the basin, which feeds about 70 per cent of Australia’s irrigated farmlands.”

America’s Midterm Elections

American Voters Send A Clear Message!

Democrats ousted Republicans from power in the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s midterm elections. They also took the Senate with a majority of 51 seats, including two independents who said that they would work with the Democrats.

The Washington Post commented that the Democrats did not win the midterm elections, but that the Republicans lost.

Some of the noteworthy developments are:

Minneapolis’ Democrat Keith Ellison has become the first Muslim to win a seat in the US Congress; and California’s House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi is set to be the first female speaker of the House. The most noted Republican who won a convincing re-election as California’s Governor was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Many observers feel that his land-slide victory was largely due to his recent willingness to distance himself from President Bush on issues such as global warming, setting aside partisan differences, and to concentrate on working together with Democrats to try to solve California’s mounting problems.

Also, in the wake of the elections, having come under much criticism and having lost more and more support even within the military, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld resigned on Wednesday, to be replaced by Dr. Robert Gates. Gates is former CIA Chief (1991-1993), and currently President of Texas A&M University. He was selected in order to bring, in the words of President Bush, “a fresh perspective.” Although he changed his mind regarding Rumsfeld, having stated just before the elections that Rumsfeld would stay in office, President Bush reiterated on Wednesday during a press conference that Vice-President Cheney would remain Vice-President for the next two years.

When asked to comment on the election results, President Bush said that he had thought that the American people would have known the importance of security. “But, ” he added, “the people have spoken.”

According to commentators, American voters, disappointed with President Bush’s overall job performance, as well as upset about scandals, ethic problems and corruption in the House and Congress, sent a clear message to both Republicans and Democrats, which is: “Stop bickering and attacking each other, but get something done, including on hotly debated ethical issues and health care.” And: “Solve the debacle in Iraq!” These are tough demands, given the political climate in Washington and the fact that most Democrats had voted for the war in Iraq.

Der Spiegel Online reported on November 8:

“Exit polls showed that 42 percent of voters called corruption an extremely important issue in their choices at the polls, followed by terrorism at 40 percent, the economy at 39 percent and the war in Iraq at 37 percent… Karsten Voigt, a German government adviser on German-American relations, said the election outcome meant Bush would be forced to seek consensus positions with the Democrats on key issues including Iraq. ‘…the mere fact that they won seats will shift the debate there and the president will have to take account of that,’ said Voigt. He added that he didn’t think a majority of Democrats backed an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, though. ‘There are no good options for America in Iraq, only a range of options that are less bad,’ said Voigt, a member of the center-left Social Democrats.”

What Will the Democrats Do?

On the eve of the US Midterm elections, Der Spiegel Online wrote on November 7:

“It’s almost a foregone conclusion that the Democrats are going to win back the House of Representatives — and maybe even the Senate [which they did]. But what will the Democrats do with their victory?… Congressional elections are often a reflection of the White House’s popularity, and right now, a failing policy in Iraq and abundant political scandals are casting a dark shadow over the Republican Party…

“[The] center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung… cautions the [Democratic] party to wield its power thoughtfully. Two years from now, when the Americans go to the polls again and look at what Democrats have done with their mandate, their typical refrain of ‘we wanted to but couldn’t’ will not be good enough. A difficult balancing act lies ahead. Democrats will have to become an effective ‘counterweight to the president,’ but they’ll also have to ‘prove their willingness to cooperate.’ The paper suggests Democrats resist the temptation to exact revenge on a President that has proven so divisive. Instead, they should focus on the central question of Iraq and suggest a timetable for the withdrawal of troops. Democrats, writes the editor, ‘must prove they deserve America’s trust.’

“The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung makes little effort to downplay the US Midterm elections, referring to Tuesday as ‘World Voting Day.’ Europeans so desperately want the Democrats to win — and the image of ‘Bush as the enemy’ has become so deeply ingrained in the European conscience — that they are starting to believe a real shift in power is happening. Not so fast, writes the daily. ‘Whether this is actually the end of Republican dominance will only be seen in two years,’ when Democrats will have to answer for their time in power. Iraq is certainly the core issue in the campaign, but Democrats can’t forget the domestic issues — like corruption and pension reform — that need to be tackled. Many say the American political system is paralyzed when the White House and Congress are controlled by different parties. But with respect to American democracy, writes the paper, it wouldn’t be all that bad.

“Conservative daily Die Welt would like to remind its readers that America is the only superpower in the world. So, those Europeans who fantasize about an ‘alternative model to America,’ need to stop dreaming. Regardless of the outcome of the US Midterm elections, the US’s role in the world will not change. A Democratic victory will not lead to withdrawal from Iraq, and the threats from rogue states Iran and North Korea do not depend on who controls the US Congress. This, writes the paper, ‘Europe likes to forget.'”

AFP wrote on November 8:

“Victorious Democrats were quick to throw their newfound political weight behind demands that President George W. Bush change course in Iraq… But the opposition politicians [Democrats]… have offered few clear ideas for how to deal with the disastrous situation in the country US troops invaded more than three years ago… they appear almost as divided as Republicans over how to resolve the crisis.”

And Here We Go Again…

To end this week’s Current Events section with a laughable example of scientific “intelligent reasoning,” The Associated Press reported that “Japanese researchers said Sunday that a bottlenose dolphin captured last month has an extra set of fins that could be the remains of hind legs, a discovery that may provide further evidence that ocean-dwelling mammals once lived on land… Fossil remains show dolphins and whales were four-footed land animals about 50 million years ago and share the same common ancestor as hippos and deer. Scientists believe they later transitioned to an aquatic lifestyle and their hind limbs disappeared.”

This is utter nonsense, of course. No “evolution” from sea animals to land animals to sea animals took place. It is amazing that scientists teaching this concept seem to be unwilling to ask and answer the pertinent question: If animal life developed in the ocean, as they contend, and if fish developed into sea-living reptiles, which then moved to land to evolve into birds and mammals, in order to become more adaptable to their environment, why in the world would those land animals then decide to move back into the sea, in order to give up their sophisticated characteristics that they developed as land animals? This makes no sense, does it?

For more information on the utter ridiculousness of the whole evolutionary concept, which is being taught to our poor children in school, please read our free booklet, “The Theory of Evolution–a Fairy Tale for Adults?”

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