Thursday, March 27, 2003

Rachel Corey update: "probably" ?
You might ask yourself if one word really makes a difference in the testimony of those who witnessed Rachel Corey's tragic death. One word certainly doesn't change the outcome: an American peace activist is still dead, her quest for justice remains uncomplete, and her family, friends, and admirers still mourn. So if one word is so inconsequential, why has it disappeared?

from the Middle East Times, 21 March 2003 International edition

IDF kills American peace activist
By Jean-Marc Mojon

Rachel's ISM colleagues, all of whom witnessed the scene, are certain it was a case of murder.

"She was wearing a fluorescent orange jacket and was plainly visible," said Greg Schnabel. "The bulldozer approached but she stood her ground. Then it pushed up a pile of dirt beneath her feet. She struggled to stay on top of the mound.

"She was raised up to where she was probably looking the bulldozer driver in the eye," Schnabel said, ruling out any possibility the Israeli destruction team could have failed to see her.

"Then she stepped back, the bulldozer continued and sand started covering her legs and buried her up to her waist. She tried to pull herself out but she got sucked under the blade.

You may recall from my last update that I included a quote from Greg Schnabel's "signed" statement in which he states; "She was clearly visible to the bulldozer driver as well as to the soldiers in the tank." You may also recall that the first published accounts by various witnesses contained many divergent statements about the details of her death. These differences seem to be ironed out by the time the signed statements were made available to the public on International Solidarity Movement's web site.

I must say that I am under no illusion about the extreme elements of both Israeli and Palestinian society who care little for life other than their own. It is certainly possible, even probable, that Corey's death may have been a case of murder. But as any astute and fair-minded person knows "probable" isn't the same as fact. Unfortunately because of the highly charged ideology of all those involved in this incident, no one can be trusted to give an unbiased statement -- carefully worded to best effect.

That's why every single photograph taken on that ill-fated day (by Joseph Smith and anyone else) must be made available immediately -- first to a neutral body capable of conducting a fair investigation, and then to the public. Justice can only be delivered by the cold, hard truth -- the kind not suited to surive black and white world of politics and propaganda.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

National Review weighs in on "The anti-war conservatives"
For those who read A Fateful Moment in the Movement, David Frum explains the tactics employed by a political coalition that I prefer to regard as radical libertarians, best exemplified by Pat Buchanan and Justin Raimondo, who champion a policy dubbed America First.

The anti-war conservatives
David Frum, National Review

. . . These conservatives are few in number, but their ambitions are large. They aspire to reinvent conservative ideology: to junk the 50-year-old conservative commitment to defend American interests and values throughout the world in favor of a fearful policy of ignoring threats and appeasing enemies.

The anti-war conservatives aren't satisfied merely to question the wisdom of an Iraq war. Questions are perfectly reasonable, indeed valuable. There is more than one way to wage the war on terror, and thoughtful people will naturally disagree about how best to do it, whether to focus on terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and Hezbollah or on states like Iraq and Iran; and if states, then which state first?

But the anti-war conservatives have gone far, far beyond the advocacy of alternative strategies. They have made common cause with the left-wing and Islamist anti-war movements in the United States and in Europe. They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation's enemies. . .

Read the complete commentary here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Update: Iraq's connection to the French Elf scandal
A report from the French news agency Agence France Presse hints at how France's oil-diplomacy is linked to the Saddam regime. (follow-up to The French Elf and the Thief of Baghdad)

Elf: no place for pixies

Current political scandals have seriously discredited France's ruling caste. While the Gaullist RPR party slush fund scam centers around president Chirac, a gigantic sleaze case engulfs both the right and the left, and it's called "l'affaire Elf".

An eight-year investigation into a multi-million dollar web of corruption centered around the French oil group Elf officially concluded in February, opening the way for the formal prosecution of top-level political and business figures named in the case.

Magistrates in charge of the investigation have informed the 42 suspects that the evidence against them is ready for forwarding to state prosecutors.

Careful attention should be drawn to the fact the "allegations all date from before Elf's privatisation in 1994, and hark back to an era in which French governments used the company as an arm of foreign policy - notably in Africa, where many of its most lucrative investments were based."

One the one hand, the time frame occurs before Elf signed it multi-billion dollar oil-rights deal with Iraq. But on the other hand, France has admitted that Elf (and its dealings) were as much political arrangements as business negotiations -- and France has a long history of working with Saddam's Iraq, even after the 1991 Gulf War. Also worth considering is this disturbing allegation of judicial harassment:

. . . The judge leading the Elf investigation, Eva Joly, has won a fearsome reputation as a crusader against the venality of the French ruling classes, and helped establish the independence of the magistrature against outside interference.

But in March she announced she had decided to return to her native Norway, to take up post as an anti-corruption adviser to the government, and to leave the elite, but small, group of French investigating judges spearheading the fight against corruption.

In one of many interviews at the time of her resignation, Joly said she had been the victim of mysterious harassment, including the burglary of her home and office, being followed and the interference with her computer files, and said her official judicial assistant, a court clerk, had also had his home burgled.

Complicating the picture is the subplot of one very well connected character by the name of Nadhmi Auchi, who seems to have sidelined as an un-official diplomat/courier for British and French governments (among many other states).
(from Elf: no place for pixies)
. . . Nadhmi Auchi, a British-Iraqi multi-millionaire, is accused of taking kickbacks worth around EUR 45 million for his role as intermediary when Elf bought the Spanish oil firm Ertoil in 1991.

Labour blocks extradition of Iraqi tycoon Nadhmi Auchi
The Observer - 02 Feb 2003

Investigators working on the biggest fraud trial in French history have called for the extradition of a British-based Iraqi billionaire with links to the Blair government.

Opposition MPs have demanded a full explanation for Britain's refusal to deport Nadhmi Auchi, one of Britain's richest men, who was once a senior official in the Iraqi oil ministry.

The French magistrate leading the investigation, Renaud van Ruymbeke, is furious with the British authorities for failing to deliver Auchi.

Questions will also be raised over the precise nature of the billionaire's relationship with the Baghdad regime.

The Observer has discovered that Auchi met Saddam's number two, Tariq Aziz, as recently as last October 2002 at a gala dinner in Beirut. But Auchi also has links with British intelligence, through the former senior MI6 officer Anthony Cavendish, who acts a consultant to Auchi's business empire.

An international arrest warrant was issued for Auchi three years ago, after he was alleged to have received a multi-million-franc kickback from the oil giant Elf-Aquitaine during the sale of a Spanish refinery. The Interpol arrest warrant issued by the French in 2000 states that Auchi is suspected of 'complicity in the misuse of company assets and receiving embezzled company assets'.

. . . Despite continued questions about his relationship with Baghdad, Auchi remains well placed to act as a middle-man in any negotiations with Western companies over Iraq's oil fields.

Sources close to his empire claim that Tony Blair met him to discuss Iraq shortly before his Christmas holiday in Egypt.

A Downing Street spokesman said: 'We have no record of a meeting with the Prime Minister.' But he said that he could not rule out the possibility that they may have met socially.

In April 1999, Science Minister Lord Sainsbury presented Auchi with a painting of the Commons, signed by Blair and leading parliamentarians, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Auchi's General Mediterranean Holdings.

. . . Auchi's relationship with the Iraq regime has always been shrouded in mystery. He came to Britain in the early 1980s after falling out of favour with the Saddam regime.

He claims that two of his brothers were killed by the Iraqi dictator, but, in the early years of the Ba'athist revolution, he was in a senior position in Baghdad. While in exile, Auchi received a $16.5 million (£10m) commission on an Italo-French bid to build a pipeline for Saddam in 1986, say Italian fraud investigators.

Auchi is Britain's 13th richest man, with an estimated £1.2 billion hotel and shipping empire. The opening of his latest venture, Le Royal, a luxury hotel in the Jordanian capital, Amman, modelled on a famous Iraqi spiral minaret, was attended by King Abdullah and the speaker of the Scottish Parliament, Sir David Steel.

NOTE: Elf was privatised after the election of a right-wing government in France in 1993 and now forms part of TotalFinaElf, one of the world's top oil companies.

This trial is France's equivalent of the Microsoft anti-trust case and the Enron stock scandal rolled into one, so you can be certain that more incriminating evidence will follow in the months ahead.