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John Simkin

War Crimes in the Lebanon

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Greg Palast's newsletter that arrived this morning:

BLOOD IN BEIRUT: $75.05 A BARREL

The failure to stop the bloodletting in the Middle East, Exxon's record second-quarter profits and Iran's nuclear cat-and-mouse game have something in common -- it's the oil.

By Greg Palast

July 26, 2006

I can't tell you how it started -- this is a war that's been fought since the Levites clashed with the Philistines -- but I can tell you why the current mayhem has not been stopped. It's the oil.

I'm not an expert on Palestine nor Lebanon and I'd rather not pretend to be one. If you want to know what's going on, read Robert Fisk. He lives there. He speaks Arabic. Stay away from pundits whose only connection to the Middle East is the local falafel stand.

So why am I writing now? The answer is that, while I don't speak Arabic or Hebrew, I am completely fluent in the language of petroleum.

What? You don't need a degree in geology to know there's no oil in Israel, Palestine or Lebanon. (A few weeks ago, I was joking around with Afif Safieh, the Palestinian Authority's Ambassador to the US, asking him why he was fighting to have a piece of the only place in the Middle East without oil. Well, there's no joking now.)

Let's begin with the facts we can agree on: the berserkers are winning. Crazies discredited only a month ago are now in charge, guys with guns bigger than brains and souls smaller still. Here's a list:

-- Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's approval rating in June was down to a Bush-level of 35%. But today, Olmert's poll numbers among Israeli voters have more than doubled to 78% as he does his bloody John Wayne "cleanin' out the varmints" routine. But let's not forget: Olmert can't pee-pee without George Bush's approval. Bush can stop Olmert tomorrow. He hasn't.

-- Hezbollah, a political party rejected overwhelmingly by Lebanese voters sickened by their support of Syrian occupation, holds a mere 14 seats out of 128 in the nation's parliament. Hezbollah was facing demands by both Lebanon's non-Shia majority and the United Nations to lay down arms. Now, few Lebanese would suggest taking away their rockets. But let's not forget: Without Iran, Hezbollah is just a fundamentalist street gang. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can stop Hezbollah's rockets tomorrow. He hasn't.

-- Hamas, just days before it kidnapped and killed Israeli soldiers, was facing certain political defeat at the hands of the Palestinian majority ready to accept the existence of Israel as proposed in a manifesto for peace talks penned by influential Palestinian prisoners. Now the Hamas rocket brigade is back in charge. But let's not forget: Hamas is broke and a joke without the loot and authority of Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah can stop these guys tomorrow. He hasn't.

Why not? Why haven't what we laughably call "leaders" of the USA, Iran and Saudi Arabia called back their delinquent spawn, cut off their allowances and grounded them for six months?

Maybe because mayhem and murder in the Middle East are very, very profitable to the sponsors of these characters with bombs and rockets. America, Iran and Saudi Arabia share one thing in common: they are run by oil regimes. The higher the price of crude, the higher the profits and the happier the presidents and princelings of these petroleum republics.

This Thursday, Exxon is expected to report the highest second-quarter earnings of any corporation since the days of the Pharaoh, $9.9 billion in pure profit collected in just three months -- courtesy of an oil shortage caused by pipelines on fire in Iraq, warlord attacks in Nigeria, the lingering effects of the sabotage of Venezuela's oil system by a 2002 strike... the list could go on.

Exxon's brobdingnagian profits simply reflect the cold axiom that oil companies and oil states don't make their loot by finding oil but by finding trouble. Finding oil increases supply. Increased supply means decreased price. Whereas finding trouble -- wars, coup d'etats, hurricanes, whatever can disrupt supply -- raises the price of oil.

A couple of examples from today's Bloomberg newswire are:

"Crude oil traded above $75 a barrel in New York as fighting between Israeli and Iranian-backed Hezbollah forces in Lebanon entered its 14th day... Oil prices rose last month on concern for supplies from Iran, the world's fourth largest producer, may be disrupted in its dispute with the United Nations over its uranium enrichment ... [And, said a trader,] 'I still think $85 is likely this summer. I'm really surprised we haven't seen any hurricanes.'''

In Tehran, President Ahmadinejad may or may not have a plan to make a nuclear bomb, but he sure as heck knows that hinting at it raises the price of the one thing he certainly does have -- oil. Every time he barks, 'Mad Mahmoud' knows that he's pumping up the price of crude. Just a $10 a barrel "blow-up-in-the-Mideast" premium brings his regime nearly a quarter of a billion dollars each week (including the little kick to the value of Iran's natural gas). Not a bad pay-off for making a bit of trouble.

Saudi Arabia's rake-in from The Troubles? Assuming just a $10 a barrel boost for Middle Eastern mayhem and you can calculate that the blood in the sand puts an extra $658 million a week in Abdullah's hand.

And in Houston, you can hear the cash registers jing-a-ling as explosions in Kirkuk, Beirut and the Niger River Delta sound like the sleigh-bells on Santa's sled. At $75.05 a barrel, they don't call it "sweet" crude for nothing. That's up 27% from a year ago. The big difference between then and now: the rockets' red glare.

Exxon's second-quarter profits may bust records, but next quarter's should put it to shame, as the "Lebanon premium" and Iraq's insurgency have puffed up prices, up by an average of 11% in the last three months.

So there's not much incentive for the guys who supply the weaponry to tell their wards to put away their murderous toys. This war's just too darn profitable.

We are trained to think of Middle Eastern conflicts as just modern flare-ups of ancient tribal animosities. But to uncover why the flames won't die, the usual rule applies: follow the money.

Am I saying that Tehran, Riyadh and Houston oil chieftains conspired to ignite a war to boost their petroleum profits? I can't imagine it. But I do wonder if Bush would let Olmert have an extra week of bombings, or if the potentates of the Persian Gulf would allow Hamas and Hezbollah to continue their deadly fireworks if it caused the price of crude to crash. You know and I know that if this war took a bite out of Exxon or the House of Saud, a ceasefire would be imposed quicker than you can say, "Let's drill in the Arctic."

Eventually, there will be another ceasefire. But Exxon shareholders need not worry. Global warming has heated the seas sufficiently to make certain that they can look forward to a hellacious -- and profitable -- season of hurricanes.

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Greg Palast, IMO, is a more devious shill for not-very-nice political forces than Melanie Phillips on her high-performing days. Blaming big oil for wars in the middle east. Now when did I last hear that decreasingly plausible line? March 2003? Around the time R Murdoch told us to expect lower oil prices after the invasion of Iraq, LOL.

I may have imagined it - but it seemed to me the BBC (international TV service) momentarily lost a little composure, the moment the announcement came through that the four murdered UN observers had been killed by a precision guided missile. This news arrived just after the Beeb had replayed (several times!) an interview with an Israeli Government spokesperson assuring all and sundry that the observers' deaths were just a terribly tragic accident.

The BBC commentators displayed the kind of gentle annoyance one might expect from a doting parent whose delinquent child had been caught out, yet again, electrocuting a family pet and lying about it afterwards. Sheepish grins and shrugs all round. Oh dear, Jonny is naughty sometimes, but he's our boy and we do love him!

Regarding the hotly-debated topic of the "proportionality" of Israel's "response", the figure of 10 to 1 deaths has been quoted often.

Ex-Israeli anti-Zionist Gilad Atzmon writes that a more accurate ratio would be 500,000 : 2

That was the proportion of involuntarily relocated Lebanese refugees to the two involuntarily relocated Israeli soldiers, whose interdiction allegedly triggered Israel's latest assault on its northern neighbour.

Of course, this ratio may need to be revised upwards; the number of Lebanese refugees rises on an hourly basis.

Edited by Sid Walker

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Greg Palast, IMO, is a more devious shill for not-very-nice political forces than Melanie Phillips on her high-performing days. Blaming big oil for wars in the middle east. Now when did I last hear that decreasingly plausible line? March 2003? Around the time R Murdoch told us to expect lower oil prices after the invasion of Iraq, LOL.

I may have imagined it - but it seemed to me the BBC (international TV service) momentarily lost a little composure, the moment the announcement came through that the four murdered UN observers had been killed by a precision guided missile. This news arrived just after the Beeb had replayed (several times!) an interview with an Israeli Government spokesperson assuring all and sundry that the observers' deaths were just a terribly tragic accident.

The BBC commentators displayed the kind of gentle annoyance one might expect from a doting parent whose delinquent child had been caught out, yet again, electrocuting a family pet and lying about it afterwards. Sheepish grins and shrugs all round. Oh dear, Jonny is naughty sometimes, but he's our boy and we do love him!

Regarding the hotly-debated topic of the "proportionality" of Israel's "response", the figure of 10 to 1 deaths has been quoted often.

Ex-Israeli anti-Zionist Gilad Atzmon writes that a more accurate ratio would be 500,000 : 2

That was the proportion of involuntarily relocated Lebanese refugees to the two involuntarily relocated Israeli soldiers, whose interdiction allegedly triggered Israel's latest assault on its northern neighbour.

Of course, this ratio may need to be revised upwards; the number of Lebanese refugees rises on an hourly basis.

The IDF was reportedly reminded 10 times of the UN peacekeepers presence. Still they copped a direct hit. I can't see the IDF deliberately hitting them because there's no military or political advantage in doing so. However, if it was not deliberate then it's a shocking display of carelessness. Is the IDF that careless?

As far as world opinion is concerned, this war is going very badly for Israel. The death of the peacekeepers means the PR battle is comprehensively lost, IMO. China is furious and demanding an explanation from Israel. I'm keen to see what excuse John Howard comes up with for his dear friends in Jerusalem. What an embarrassment this man is.

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As more news filters in about today's Israeli strikes on the UNIFIL observation team, the story sounds eerily reminiscent of the USS Liberty attack. Apparently there were numerous attacks over a sustained period and the Israelis were warned many times. When the kill came, it was a precision weapon. To dispatch such a missile, exact co-ordinates must be entered by the operator. Little room for acciudents in this procedure, one would have thought. One commentator speculates that the strike might well have been a deliberate assault to remove indpendent witnesses close to the Syrian border.

On cue, the White House announces that there's no evidence the attacks were deliberate. Gee, they sure have good 'intelligence' in Washington. Just like 1967? The quality of spin has been declining ever since the smooth-lying Ari Fleischer left the team; amazingly, Washington has yet to blame Iran or Syria for these UN slayings.

From Rome, Condi Rice calls for "sustainable peace" but not a cease fire. I guess that gives the Lebanese something else to look forward to. Santa Clause is due too in another six months.

Ariel Sharon stirs. Perhaps the 'Hero of Qatana' misses the action? Terror 101.

The suave Israeli Government spokesman Mark Regev appears on the screen once again. He assures the gullible that Israel's Lebanon 'operation' is on behalf of the whole world. The suffering Jewish State is making great sacrifices for humanity by waging the War on Terror on the front lines. He hisses when Syria is mentioned. It's a terrorist country, addicted to war and lying. He says this without a trace of irony.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Israeli surgical strikes have destroyed another aid lorry, killing its driver (it's the second in a week).

The Israelis continue to use cluster bombs and phosphorus (a chemical weapon). Even the timid Human Rights Watch is finding this hard to be 'even-handed' about. Those with strong stomaches might care to check THIS link.

Only the most profound racism on the Israeli side can explain their nonchalence about massive civilian casualties in The Lebanon and their determination to persist with military policies that will inevtiably lead to a lot more of the same.

Lest we forget, Gaza continues to scream in agony, its torments largely overlooked in the current excitement.

I received this article via Israel Shamir's email list. It makes grim reading. The courage of the Palestinian people is almost beyond belief. They show us all that the human spirit is still alive, even within their walled, segmented, bombed and largely destroyed ghetto.

_______________________

Gaza is out of news. The Strip could be relocated to Mars - there no reports from there, just brief reports of Jews bombing away the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and another small power plant. Israel allows no reporters inside. Our friend Silvia Cattori tried to get in, could not make it, but managed to record the following interview with a Palestinian located in the North of Gaza:

Silvia Cattori: What is the mental state of the population after weeks of bombings and deprivations?

A: We have suffered. We are in a dramatic situation. The Israeli army has entered up to Saladine Street; the military has cut Gaza in two: it is like it was before. They have installed a base. There are a dozen tanks with bulldozers. They are in the process of razing land, greenhouses; they are destroying all that remains of life. For two weeks, the F-16s and the drones bomb and destroy our homes. There are hundreds of dead and badly wounded.

S.C.: Is it blind bombing of everything as opposed to bombing that is targeting "terrorists"?

A: The day before yesterday, for example, the Israelis attacked a house, assassinating an entire family, under the pretext that it sheltered Mohamed Daif, the head of those firing the Qassam rockets. However, it wasn't true. Unfortunately, an entire family, a father, a mother, five daughters and two sons lost their lives.

S.C.: Having cut Gaza in two, are the soldiers threatening the population from this position?

A: Yes, their tanks, posted in the centre of the Gaza Strip, between Del Balla and Kahn Younes, are currently firing rockets - just like in the north of Gaza.

S.C.: Are the tanks moving?

A: No, the Israeli soldiers are chicken; they are afraid of being attacked by the resistance.

S.C.: Do the members of the Hamas Government still show themselves on the street?

A: We are seeing no one. They are all on the list of the next assassinations. They only come out when they have a rendez-vous, but it is always done with great secrecy.

S.C.: During the two weeks of the bombings that have left you without water, without electricity, without food, have you been afraid for your family?

A: The first attack by the Israeli planes at Betlaya was near my house. It was there that there were a large number of wounded and killed. The children were in a panic. Fearing that Israel would attack our neighbourhood, we left our house to move away from the zone. Now, we have returned home.

S.C.: How do people put up with living in such a horrible situation? Do they want you to free the captured soldier as quickly as possible to end Israel's pretext to continue the collective punishment?

A: The majority of the Palestinians support the position of the resistance, the position that the soldier won't be released until Israel releases 1000 of the weakest prisoners they hold, women and children. Prisoners that are living - contrary to the Israeli propaganda film shown recently on television in the west that we have heard about - under inhuman conditions. This film didn't talk about the torture of the prisoners, didn't show prisoners being held like beasts in tents, plagued by insects and disease, didn't say that most of the prisoners can only see their families once every six months. [1]

S.C.: Has the accord signed between Fatah and Hamas two weeks ago taken affect?

A: They were speaking of an entente. But on the ground, it is the contrary. The Fatah militia continues their assassinations, so the Palestinians continue to be threatened by two enemies: that is, by Israel and by those Palestinians who are collaborating with the occupier in order to destablize Hamas. The Israeli attacks actually prevented a civil war between Palestinians. At this moment, each Palestinian, no matter what party, feels above all like a target of Israeli shooting.

S.C.: Can even the father of a family like you, who has nothing to do with the resistance, be hit by what they call a targeted assassination?

A: You must know that our crime is being Palestinian, to belong to Palestine. If I find myself by chance in the same taxi as someone that an Israeli plane wants to assassinate, I can be killed.

S.C.: For that you will have to face more and more aggression? The Israeli army has announced that Operation Summer Rain will last as long as necessary.

A: You know that Israel is government by lunatics at this moment. They are narrow-minded politicians. They have unleashed war in Gaza, and, as of two days, they have declared war on Lebanon. Maybe that will give us a bit of a break because the pressure is only longer only concentrated on us.

S.C.: One thing that is worrisome in any situation of war is the trauma undergone by the children. Are they still normal after all they have had to endure?

A: The other day I wanted to take my kids to the sea. My three-year-old daughter started to cry. She said, "No, Daddy, I never want to go to the beach again." I asked her why. "I don't want to die." I said, "OK, if you don't want to die, I'll go with your brothers and sisters." "You neither. No one should go to the beach," she cried. You can see how a three-year-old child reacts after seeing on television the family massacred on the beach. If I talk about the beach, she cries.

S.C.: Were the victims these last months people like you, people who are not armed, who have no protection, and who do not harm anyone?

A: Almost all of the victims are civilians. However, the Israeli army justifies the bombings of families who are eating or sleeping saying that there are fighters among them. There are members of the resistance, but they aren't among these victims. Everyone in Palestine, with the exception of the collaborators, is a resistor in spirit.

S.C.: With such a catastrophic situation, one that is ongoing, in what kind of mental state are you?

A: We continue to live in spite of the unlivable situation Israel imposes upon us. We are accustomed to living this life that isn't a life. There is no food, there is only brackish water, there is no electricity. This is our life. But it is better than living a life were we crush ourselves.

SC.: How will you be able to rebuild yet again the entire infrastructure that the Israel bombing is destroying? Do you think they can be put back in action quickly?

A: The Israelis will never leave standing anything we build. Each time that we repair the transformer in the north or the south of Gaza, they bomb it again. We have yet to hear any protests from the Arab or European states. Some states have condemned the Israeli operations, but their condemnations are too weak. It isn't enough to make Israel back off. From the moment that Europe cut off our aid, it meant they have been collaborating with Israel in its collective punishment, to starve us and to make us suffer more.

S.C.: Do you have the impression that the journalists who obtained permission to enter Gaza have been correctly informing the world on the suffering you are undergoing?

A: It is always the same thing, whether they come or not. I would have been very happy it if had been you who had gotten permission to come, because I am certain you would have reported with honesty. We follow the news. It is always a superficial and Israeli version of things that is shown. The suffering of the people, our pain, all those at CNN, Fox News, the BBS, have no idea what it is. They lie in our faces. We watch their lies live.

S.C.: Don't you think that those journalists that ignore your reality and repeat the same things are led into error by the Palestinian chauffeurs and guides accompanying and supervising them and informing them in a biased way?

A: All they have to do is what you do, go out into the street and get people to talk. It's not by them all staying in the same five star hotels in Gaza that they will be able to find the truth.

S.C.: They don't go out into the streets?

A: Even when they go, they conform to the information given by Israeli press officers or the supervision of their agencies. At the end of the day, they say what their Jerusalem or other office tells them to say and don't say what they have been told not to say. You're a journalist; you should know how it works.

S.C.: I wasn't able to enter Gaza this time and can't report on what is happening to you. It makes me all the more sad because I have remained very attached to the place and I knew so many Palestinians who were suffering and two members of the ISM as well as the London journalist James Miller - who wanted to report about your suffering and the assassination of children - who were killed in 2003 by the Israeli army.

A: They won't let you in because you are too honest. Israel well knows that you do not look at our reality in the same way as the journalists who generally come here. If you were seeing everything through the eyes of Israeli propaganda, you could have entered Gaza....

S.C. I was interrogated by the Israel secret service Sabak on my arrival at Ben Gurion airport. Won't I put any Palestinian I meet into danger if these services, which have their spies on every Palestinian street, are watching me now?

A: You can't put anyone in danger. Every Palestinian is in danger. At any moment, the drone that is flying overhead can strike me. Don't let yourself be intimidated. Do you know why they intimidated you when you arrived and why they follow you? Because those people are afraid of you?

S.C.: Afraid of me? Are you joking?

A: All of these soldiers and spies that make up the most formidable army in the world, in spite of their power, are afraid of anyone who uses his words...to speak the truth. They are afraid of those who speak the truth. They are weak people. We can win this fight even though our means are nothing compared to theirs, because we have the will and the courage that they don't have.

S.C.: What I have seen since I started traveling through the West Bank is without a doubt less atrocious than what is happening in Gaza, but, believe me, it is already too much to support. I cried when I saw a group of people being held like animals in an enclosed space at the checkpoint in Bethlehem. I cried when I arrived in Naplouse and I saw the crowd of silent people who were waiting for the soldiers to condescend to let them leave. You Palestinians seem so strong in the face of all of these humiliations they impose. Do you cry sometimes?

A: Of course I cry. I often cry now when I see all of these families who have been assassinated. A quarter of the victims are children.

S.C.: Does your wife cry, too?

A: Yes, often. Everywhere around, here in Gaza, or over there in the West Bank, are people struck by misfortune that breaks your heart. We are one people and we are suffering together. We are one unique body.

[1] It may be the film recently shown by the television network Arte.

P.S.: This interview was conducted via internet and telephone.

Translated by Signs of the Times

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As more news filters in about today's Israeli strikes on the UNIFIL observation team, the story sounds eerily reminiscent of the USS Liberty attack. Apparently there were numerous attacks over a sustained period and the Israelis were warned many times. When the kill came, it was a precision weapon. To dispatch such a missile, exact co-ordinates must be entered by the operator. Little room for acciudents in this procedure, one would have thought. One commentator speculates that the strike might well have been a deliberate assault to remove indpendent witnesses close to the Syrian border.

On cue, the White House announces that there's no evidence the attacks were deliberate. Gee, they sure have good 'intelligence' in Washington. Just like 1967? The quality of spin has been declining ever since the smooth-lying Ari Fleischer left the team; amazingly, Washington has yet to blame Iran or Syria for these UN slayings.

From Rome, Condi Rice calls for "sustainable peace" but not a cease fire. I guess that gives the Lebanese something else to look forward to. Santa Clause is due too in another six months.

Ariel Sharon stirs. Perhaps the 'Hero of Qatana' misses the action? Terror 101.

The suave Israeli Government spokesman Mark Regev appears on the screen once again. He assures the gullible that Israel's Lebanon 'operation' is on behalf of the whole world. The suffering Jewish State is making great sacrifices for humanity by waging the War on Terror on the front lines. He hisses when Syria is mentioned. It's a terrorist country, addicted to war and lying. He says this without a trace of irony.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Israeli surgical strikes have destroyed another aid lorry, killing its driver (it's the second in a week).

The Israelis continue to use cluster bombs and phosphorus (a chemical weapon). Even the timid Human Rights Watch is finding this hard to be 'even-handed' about. Those with strong stomaches might care to check THIS link.

Only the most profound racism on the Israeli side can explain their nonchalence about massive civilian casualties in The Lebanon and their determination to persist with military policies that will inevtiably lead to a lot more of the same.

Lest we forget, Gaza continues to scream in agony, its torments largely overlooked in the current excitement.

I received this article via Israel Shamir's email list. It makes grim reading. The courage of the Palestinian people is almost beyond belief. They show us all that the human spirit is still alive, even within their walled, segmented, bombed and largely destroyed ghetto.

_______________________

Gaza is out of news. The Strip could be relocated to Mars - there no reports from there, just brief reports of Jews bombing away the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and another small power plant. Israel allows no reporters inside. Our friend Silvia Cattori tried to get in, could not make it, but managed to record the following interview with a Palestinian located in the North of Gaza:

Silvia Cattori: What is the mental state of the population after weeks of bombings and deprivations?

A: We have suffered. We are in a dramatic situation. The Israeli army has entered up to Saladine Street; the military has cut Gaza in two: it is like it was before. They have installed a base. There are a dozen tanks with bulldozers. They are in the process of razing land, greenhouses; they are destroying all that remains of life. For two weeks, the F-16s and the drones bomb and destroy our homes. There are hundreds of dead and badly wounded.

S.C.: Is it blind bombing of everything as opposed to bombing that is targeting "terrorists"?

A: The day before yesterday, for example, the Israelis attacked a house, assassinating an entire family, under the pretext that it sheltered Mohamed Daif, the head of those firing the Qassam rockets. However, it wasn't true. Unfortunately, an entire family, a father, a mother, five daughters and two sons lost their lives.

S.C.: Having cut Gaza in two, are the soldiers threatening the population from this position?

A: Yes, their tanks, posted in the centre of the Gaza Strip, between Del Balla and Kahn Younes, are currently firing rockets - just like in the north of Gaza.

S.C.: Are the tanks moving?

A: No, the Israeli soldiers are chicken; they are afraid of being attacked by the resistance.

S.C.: Do the members of the Hamas Government still show themselves on the street?

A: We are seeing no one. They are all on the list of the next assassinations. They only come out when they have a rendez-vous, but it is always done with great secrecy.

S.C.: During the two weeks of the bombings that have left you without water, without electricity, without food, have you been afraid for your family?

A: The first attack by the Israeli planes at Betlaya was near my house. It was there that there were a large number of wounded and killed. The children were in a panic. Fearing that Israel would attack our neighbourhood, we left our house to move away from the zone. Now, we have returned home.

S.C.: How do people put up with living in such a horrible situation? Do they want you to free the captured soldier as quickly as possible to end Israel's pretext to continue the collective punishment?

A: The majority of the Palestinians support the position of the resistance, the position that the soldier won't be released until Israel releases 1000 of the weakest prisoners they hold, women and children. Prisoners that are living - contrary to the Israeli propaganda film shown recently on television in the west that we have heard about - under inhuman conditions. This film didn't talk about the torture of the prisoners, didn't show prisoners being held like beasts in tents, plagued by insects and disease, didn't say that most of the prisoners can only see their families once every six months. [1]

S.C.: Has the accord signed between Fatah and Hamas two weeks ago taken affect?

A: They were speaking of an entente. But on the ground, it is the contrary. The Fatah militia continues their assassinations, so the Palestinians continue to be threatened by two enemies: that is, by Israel and by those Palestinians who are collaborating with the occupier in order to destablize Hamas. The Israeli attacks actually prevented a civil war between Palestinians. At this moment, each Palestinian, no matter what party, feels above all like a target of Israeli shooting.

S.C.: Can even the father of a family like you, who has nothing to do with the resistance, be hit by what they call a targeted assassination?

A: You must know that our crime is being Palestinian, to belong to Palestine. If I find myself by chance in the same taxi as someone that an Israeli plane wants to assassinate, I can be killed.

S.C.: For that you will have to face more and more aggression? The Israeli army has announced that Operation Summer Rain will last as long as necessary.

A: You know that Israel is government by lunatics at this moment. They are narrow-minded politicians. They have unleashed war in Gaza, and, as of two days, they have declared war on Lebanon. Maybe that will give us a bit of a break because the pressure is only longer only concentrated on us.

S.C.: One thing that is worrisome in any situation of war is the trauma undergone by the children. Are they still normal after all they have had to endure?

A: The other day I wanted to take my kids to the sea. My three-year-old daughter started to cry. She said, "No, Daddy, I never want to go to the beach again." I asked her why. "I don't want to die." I said, "OK, if you don't want to die, I'll go with your brothers and sisters." "You neither. No one should go to the beach," she cried. You can see how a three-year-old child reacts after seeing on television the family massacred on the beach. If I talk about the beach, she cries.

S.C.: Were the victims these last months people like you, people who are not armed, who have no protection, and who do not harm anyone?

A: Almost all of the victims are civilians. However, the Israeli army justifies the bombings of families who are eating or sleeping saying that there are fighters among them. There are members of the resistance, but they aren't among these victims. Everyone in Palestine, with the exception of the collaborators, is a resistor in spirit.

S.C.: With such a catastrophic situation, one that is ongoing, in what kind of mental state are you?

A: We continue to live in spite of the unlivable situation Israel imposes upon us. We are accustomed to living this life that isn't a life. There is no food, there is only brackish water, there is no electricity. This is our life. But it is better than living a life were we crush ourselves.

SC.: How will you be able to rebuild yet again the entire infrastructure that the Israel bombing is destroying? Do you think they can be put back in action quickly?

A: The Israelis will never leave standing anything we build. Each time that we repair the transformer in the north or the south of Gaza, they bomb it again. We have yet to hear any protests from the Arab or European states. Some states have condemned the Israeli operations, but their condemnations are too weak. It isn't enough to make Israel back off. From the moment that Europe cut off our aid, it meant they have been collaborating with Israel in its collective punishment, to starve us and to make us suffer more.

S.C.: Do you have the impression that the journalists who obtained permission to enter Gaza have been correctly informing the world on the suffering you are undergoing?

A: It is always the same thing, whether they come or not. I would have been very happy it if had been you who had gotten permission to come, because I am certain you would have reported with honesty. We follow the news. It is always a superficial and Israeli version of things that is shown. The suffering of the people, our pain, all those at CNN, Fox News, the BBS, have no idea what it is. They lie in our faces. We watch their lies live.

S.C.: Don't you think that those journalists that ignore your reality and repeat the same things are led into error by the Palestinian chauffeurs and guides accompanying and supervising them and informing them in a biased way?

A: All they have to do is what you do, go out into the street and get people to talk. It's not by them all staying in the same five star hotels in Gaza that they will be able to find the truth.

S.C.: They don't go out into the streets?

A: Even when they go, they conform to the information given by Israeli press officers or the supervision of their agencies. At the end of the day, they say what their Jerusalem or other office tells them to say and don't say what they have been told not to say. You're a journalist; you should know how it works.

S.C.: I wasn't able to enter Gaza this time and can't report on what is happening to you. It makes me all the more sad because I have remained very attached to the place and I knew so many Palestinians who were suffering and two members of the ISM as well as the London journalist James Miller - who wanted to report about your suffering and the assassination of children - who were killed in 2003 by the Israeli army.

A: They won't let you in because you are too honest. Israel well knows that you do not look at our reality in the same way as the journalists who generally come here. If you were seeing everything through the eyes of Israeli propaganda, you could have entered Gaza....

S.C. I was interrogated by the Israel secret service Sabak on my arrival at Ben Gurion airport. Won't I put any Palestinian I meet into danger if these services, which have their spies on every Palestinian street, are watching me now?

A: You can't put anyone in danger. Every Palestinian is in danger. At any moment, the drone that is flying overhead can strike me. Don't let yourself be intimidated. Do you know why they intimidated you when you arrived and why they follow you? Because those people are afraid of you?

S.C.: Afraid of me? Are you joking?

A: All of these soldiers and spies that make up the most formidable army in the world, in spite of their power, are afraid of anyone who uses his words...to speak the truth. They are afraid of those who speak the truth. They are weak people. We can win this fight even though our means are nothing compared to theirs, because we have the will and the courage that they don't have.

S.C.: What I have seen since I started traveling through the West Bank is without a doubt less atrocious than what is happening in Gaza, but, believe me, it is already too much to support. I cried when I saw a group of people being held like animals in an enclosed space at the checkpoint in Bethlehem. I cried when I arrived in Naplouse and I saw the crowd of silent people who were waiting for the soldiers to condescend to let them leave. You Palestinians seem so strong in the face of all of these humiliations they impose. Do you cry sometimes?

A: Of course I cry. I often cry now when I see all of these families who have been assassinated. A quarter of the victims are children.

S.C.: Does your wife cry, too?

A: Yes, often. Everywhere around, here in Gaza, or over there in the West Bank, are people struck by misfortune that breaks your heart. We are one people and we are suffering together. We are one unique body.

[1] It may be the film recently shown by the television network Arte.

P.S.: This interview was conducted via internet and telephone.

Translated by Signs of the Times

A disturbing post. The major difference between the Liberty incident and the killing of the UN observers is that there was no internet in 1967. Besides the statements of those involved, there was only the mainstream news media so this issue was silenced by LBJ and his friends by threatening retribution for those who spoke out. Even if they did, the media, deeply sympathetic to the Israeli cause, wasn't interested. That's why the Liberty story was never really fully exposed and analysed when it occurred. The fact that the victims of the Liberty attack were all Americans also made it easier for LBJ to cover for Israel.

Actually, the death of the observers could turn out to be a disaster for Israel as it will prompt more thinking people to circumvent the mainstream media and find out what Israel has actually been doing to the Palestinians. The US/Israeli propaganda machine only gives us the story from the Israeli perspective but the internet provides the opportunity to look beyond the superficiality and get a glimpse of the real story. Of course, the internet can be spiked also, but more politicians and opinion leaders (those not captive to the Israeli lobby, that is) are beginning to speak out. Hopefully, we're getting close to critical mass.

The old fighting terrorism line is wearing very thin. It can't justify the mass slaughter of civilians and constant oppression of civilian populations. It's all total bullxxxx. The Jewish terrorists of pre-Israel days called themselves warriors in the noble struggle for Hebrew liberation. What's it going to take for the world to see the double standards being employed here?

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The major difference between the Liberty incident and the killing of the UN observers is that there was no internet in 1967. Besides the statements of those involved, there was only the mainstream news media so this issue was silenced by LBJ and his friends by threatening retribution for those who spoke out. Even if they did, the media, deeply sympathetic to the Israeli cause, wasn't interested. That's why the Liberty story was never really fully exposed and analysed when it occurred. The fact that the victims of the Liberty attack were all Americans also made it easier for LBJ to cover for Israel.

I came across this yesterday in an Oklahoma State University student publication:

In 1967, President Johnson worked secretly with the Israeli government and used their military to attack the U.S.S. Liberty off the coast of Israel in the Mediterranean. He is quoted on record for saying he wanted to see the ship “on the bottom” of the Mediterranean, according to tapes released in 2001.

The U.S. wanted to blame the attack on Egypt to justify a full-scale invasion of the Middle East. Israeli fighter planes could not sink the nation’s most decorated warship in time. They ended after Russian spies were seen watching.

http://www.ocolly.com/read_story.php?a_id=30268

Does anyone have any idea what LBJ tape(s) about the Liberty the writer is talking about?

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The IDF was reportedly reminded 10 times of the UN peacekeepers presence. Still they copped a direct hit. I can't see the IDF deliberately hitting them because there's no military or political advantage in doing so. However, if it was not deliberate then it's a shocking display of carelessness. Is the IDF that careless?

Hezbollah was reportedly using the UN post as a shield to launch rocket attacks. If true, then a tactical decision was made to remove the shield.

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/s...a9-7f94d5fc6d50

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The major difference between the Liberty incident and the killing of the UN observers is that there was no internet in 1967. Besides the statements of those involved, there was only the mainstream news media so this issue was silenced by LBJ and his friends by threatening retribution for those who spoke out. Even if they did, the media, deeply sympathetic to the Israeli cause, wasn't interested. That's why the Liberty story was never really fully exposed and analysed when it occurred. The fact that the victims of the Liberty attack were all Americans also made it easier for LBJ to cover for Israel.

I came across this yesterday in an Oklahoma State University student publication:

In 1967, President Johnson worked secretly with the Israeli government and used their military to attack the U.S.S. Liberty off the coast of Israel in the Mediterranean. He is quoted on record for saying he wanted to see the ship “on the bottom” of the Mediterranean, according to tapes released in 2001.

The U.S. wanted to blame the attack on Egypt to justify a full-scale invasion of the Middle East. Israeli fighter planes could not sink the nation’s most decorated warship in time. They ended after Russian spies were seen watching.

http://www.ocolly.com/read_story.php?a_id=30268

Does anyone have any idea what LBJ tape(s) about the Liberty the writer is talking about?

Nice find, Ron. I suspect the writer is using a bit of 'student poetic license' there. I've never heard of anything like this on the LBJ tapes. LBJ always removed incriminating evidence. I would be keen to find out the author's sources.

Sadly, from what has been revealed in the last 30 years about LBJ's activities, I wouldn't put it past him.

The IDF was reportedly reminded 10 times of the UN peacekeepers presence. Still they copped a direct hit. I can't see the IDF deliberately hitting them because there's no military or political advantage in doing so. However, if it was not deliberate then it's a shocking display of carelessness. Is the IDF that careless?

Hezbollah was reportedly using the UN post as a shield to launch rocket attacks. If true, then a tactical decision was made to remove the shield.

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/s...a9-7f94d5fc6d50

Very interesting. If true, then Kofi Annan was right.

They were told repeatedly that the observers were in the shelter. That would make it murder--and another war crime.

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Tony Blair has been rightly criticised by the media for appearing to be George Bush’s lap dog. He has just dashed off to Washington where he will try to persuade Bush to call for a cease-fire. No chance of course. One of the problems is that Bush’s support for Israel has increased his poll-ratings. It seems the American public think that the bombing of the Lebanon is likely to reduce the threat of terrorism. They clearly know nothing about politics in the Middle East.

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The "hiding among civilians" myth

Israel claims it's justified in bombing civilians because Hezbollah mingles with them. In fact, the militant group doesn't trust its civilians and stays as far away from them as possible.

By Mitch Prothero

Jul. 28, 2006 | The bombs came just as night fell, around 7 p.m. The locals knew that the 10-story apartment building had been the office, and possibly the residence, of Sheik Tawouk, the Hezbollah commander for the south, so they had moved their families out at the start of the war. The landlord had refused to rent to Hezbollah when they requested the top floors of the building. No matter, the locals said, the Hezb guys just moved in anyway in the name of the "resistance."

Everyone knew that the building would be hit eventually. Its location in downtown Tyre, which had yet to be hit by Israeli airstrikes, was not going to protect it forever. And "everyone" apparently included Sheik Tawouk, because he wasn't anywhere near it when it was finally hit.

Two guided bombs struck it in a huge flash bang of fire and concrete dust followed by the roar of 10 stories pancaking on top of each other, local residents said. Jihad Husseini, 46, runs the driving school a block away and was sitting in his office when the bombs struck. He said his life was saved because he had drawn the heavy cloth curtains shut on the windows facing the street, preventing him from being hit by a wave of shattered glass. But even so, a chunk of smoldering steel flew through the air, broke through the window and the curtain, and shot past his head and through the wall before coming to rest in his neighbor's home.

But Jihad still refuses to leave.

"Everything is broken, but I can make it better," he says, surrounded by his sons Raed, 20, and Mohammed, 12. "I will not leave. This place is not military, it is not Hezbollah; it was an empty apartment."

Throughout this now 16-day-old war, Israeli planes high above civilian areas make decisions on what to bomb. They send huge bombs capable of killing things for hundreds of meters around their targets, and then blame the inevitable civilian deaths -- the Lebanese government says 600 civilians have been killed so far -- on "terrorists" who callously use the civilian infrastructure for protection.

But this claim is almost always false. My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters -- as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers -- avoid civilians. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators -- as so many Palestinian militants have been.

For their part, the Israelis seem to think that if they keep pounding civilians, they'll get some fighters, too. The almost nightly airstrikes on the southern suburbs of Beirut could be seen as making some sense, as the Israelis appear convinced there are command and control bunkers underneath the continually smoldering rubble. There were some civilian casualties the first few nights in places like Haret Hreik, but people quickly left the area to the Hezbollah fighters with their radios and motorbikes.

But other attacks seem gratuitous, fishing expeditions, or simply intended to punish anything and anyone even vaguely connected to Hezbollah. Lighthouses, grain elevators, milk factories, bridges in the north used by refugees, apartment buildings partially occupied by members of Hezbollah's political wing -- all have been reduced to rubble.

In the south, where Shiites dominate, just about everyone supports Hezbollah. Does mere support for Hezbollah, or even participation in Hezbollah activities, mean your house and family are fair game? Do you need to fire rockets from your front yard? Or is it enough to be a political activist?

The Israelis are consistent: They bomb everyone and everything remotely associated with Hezbollah, including noncombatants. In effect, that means punishing Lebanon. The nation is 40 percent Shiite, and of that 40 percent, tens of thousands are employed by Hezbollah's social services, political operations, schools, and other nonmilitary functions. The "terrorist" organization Hezbollah is Lebanon's second-biggest employer.

People throw the phrase "ghost town" around a lot, but Nabatiya, a bombed-out town about 15 miles from the Lebanon-Israel border, deserves it. One expects the spirits of the town's dead, or its refugees, to silently glide out onto its abandoned streets from the ruined buildings that make up much of the town.

Not all of the buildings show bomb damage, but those that don't have metal shutters blown out as if by a terrible wind. And there are no people at all, except for the occasional Hezbollah scout on a motorbike armed only with a two-way radio, keeping an eye on things as Israeli jets and unmanned drones circle overhead.

Overlooking the outskirts of this town, which has a peacetime population of 100,000 or so -- mostly Shiite supporters of Hezbollah and its more secular rival Amal -- is the Ragheh Hareb Hospital, a facility that makes quite clear what side the residents of Nabatiya are on in this conflict.

The hospital's carefully sculpted and trimmed front lawn contains the giant Red Crescent that denotes the Muslim version of the Red Cross. As we approach it, an Israeli missile streaks by, smashing into a school on the opposite hilltop. As we crouch and then run for the shelter of the hospital awning, that giant crescent reassures me until I look at the flagpole. The Lebanese flag and its cedar tree is there -- right next to the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It's safe to say that Ragheh Hareb Hospital has an association with Hezbollah. And the staff sports the trimmed beards and polite, if somewhat ominous, manner of the group. After young men demand press IDs and do some quick questioning, they allow us to enter.

Dr. Ahmed Tahir recognizes me from a funeral in the nearby village of Dweir. An Israeli bomb dropped on their house killed a Hezbollah cleric and 11 members of his immediate family, mostly children. People in Lebanon are calling it a war crime. Tahir looks exhausted, and our talk is even more tense than the last time.

"Maybe it would be best if the Israelis bombed your car on the road here," he said, with a sharp edge. "If you were killed, maybe the public outcry would be so bad in America that the Jews would be forced to stop these attacks."

When I volunteered that the Bush administration cared little for journalists, let alone ones who reported from Hezbollah territory, he shrugged. "Maybe if it was an American bomb used by the Israelis that killed an American journalist, they would stop this horror," he said.

The handful of people in the town include some from Hezbollah's political wing, as well as volunteers keeping an eye on things while the residents are gone. Off to the side, as we watch the Israelis pummel ridgelines on the outskirts of town, one of the political operatives explains that the fighters never come near the town, reinforcing what other Hezbollah people have told me over the years.

Although Israel targets apartments and offices because they are considered "Hezbollah" installations, the group has a clear policy of keeping its fighters away from civilians as much as possible. This is not for humanitarian reasons -- they did, after all, take over an apartment building against the protests of the landlord, knowing full well it would be bombed -- but for military ones.

"You can be a member of Hezbollah your entire life and never see a military wing fighter with a weapon," a Lebanese military intelligence official, now retired, once told me. "They do not come out with their masks off and never operate around people if they can avoid it. They're completely afraid of collaborators. They know this is what breaks the Palestinians -- no discipline and too much showing off."

Perhaps once a year, Hezbollah will hold a military parade in the south, in which its weapons and fighters appear. Media access to these parades is tightly limited and controlled. Unlike the fighters in the half dozen other countries where I have covered insurgencies, Hezbollah fighters do not like to show off for the cameras. In Iraq, with some risk taking, you can meet with and even watch the resistance guys in action. (At least you could during my last time there.) In Afghanistan, you can lunch with Taliban fighters if you're willing to walk a day or so in the mountains. In Gaza and the West Bank, the Fatah or Hamas fighter is almost ubiquitous with his mask, gun and sloganeering to convince the Western journalist of the justice of his cause.

The Hezbollah guys, on the other hand, know that letting their fighters near outsiders of any kind -- journalists or Lebanese, even Hezbollah supporters -- is stupid. In three trips over the last week to the south, where I came near enough to the fighting to hear Israeli artillery, and not just airstrikes, I saw exactly no fighters. Guys with radios with the look of Hezbollah always found me. But no fighters on corners, no invitations to watch them shoot rockets at the Zionist enemy, nothing that can be used to track them.

Even before the war, on many of my trips to the south, the Lebanese army, or the ubiquitous guy on a motorbike with a radio, would halt my trip and send me over to Tyre to get permission from a Hezbollah official before I could proceed, usually with strict limits on where I could go.

Every other journalist I know who has covered Hezbollah has had the same experience. A fellow journalist, a Lebanese who has covered them for two decades, knows only one military guy who will admit it, and he never talks or grants interviews. All he will say is, "I'll be gone for a few months for training. I'll call when I'm back." Presumably his friends and neighbors may suspect something, but no one says anything.

Hezbollah's political members say they have little or no access to the workings of the fighters. This seems to be largely true: While they obviously hear and know more than the outside world, the firewall is strong.

Israel, however, has chosen to treat the political members of Hezbollah as if they were fighters. And by targeting the civilian wing of the group, which supplies much of the humanitarian aid and social protection for the poorest people in the south, they are targeting civilians.

Earlier in the week, I stood next to a giant crater that had smashed through the highway between Tyre and Sidon -- the only route of escape for most of the people in the far south. Overhead, Israeli fighters and drones circled above the city and its outlying areas and regular blasts of bombs and naval artillery could be heard.

The crater served as a nice place to check up on the refugees, who were forced by the crater to slow down long enough to be asked questions. They barely stopped, their faces wrenched in near panic. The main wave of refugees out of the south had come the previous two days, so these were the hard-luck cases, the people who had been really close to the fighting and who needed two days just to get to Tyre, or who had had to make the tough decision whether to flee or stay put, with neither choice looking good.

The roads in the south are full of the cars of people who chose wrong -- burned-out chassis, broken glass, some cars driven straight into posts or ditches. Other seem to have broken down or run out of gas on the long dirt detours around the blown-out highway and bridge network the Israeli air force had spent days methodically destroying even as it warned people to flee.

One man, slowing his car around the crater, almost screams, "There is nothing left. This country is not for us." His brief pause immediately draws horns and impatient yells from the people in the cars behind him. They pass the crater but within two minutes a large explosion behind us, north, in the direction of Sidon, rocks us.

As we drive south toward Tyre, we soon pass a new series of scars on the highway: shrapnel, hubcaps and broken glass. A car that had been maybe five minutes ahead of us was hit by an Israeli shell. Three of its passengers were wounded, and it was heading north to the Hammound hospital at Sidon. We turned around because of the attack and followed the car to Sidon. Those unhurt staked out the parking lot of the hospital, looking for the Western journalists they were convinced had called in the strike. Luckily my Iraqi fixer smelled trouble and we got out of there. Probably nothing would have happened -- mostly they were just freaked-out country people who didn't like the coincidence of an Israeli attack and a car full of journalists driving past.

So the analysts talking on cable news about Hezbollah "hiding within the civilian population" clearly have spent little time if any in the south Lebanon war zone and don't know what they're talking about. Hezbollah doesn't trust the civilian population and has worked very hard to evacuate as much of it as possible from the battlefield. And this is why they fight so well -- with no one to spy on them, they have lots of chances to take the Israel Defense Forces by surprise, as they have by continuing to fire rockets and punish every Israeli ground incursion.

And the civilians? They see themselves as targeted regardless of their affiliation. They are enraged at Israel and at the United States, the only two countries on earth not calling for an immediate cease-fire. Lebanese of all persuasions think the United States and Israel believe that Lebanese lives are cheaper than Israeli ones. And many are now saying that they want to fight.

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2006/07/...llah/print.html

Edited by Owen Parsons

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Very interesting pieces from Owen and Peter.

I notice the US didn't veto UN resolution 425 calling for Israeli withdrawal in 1978, when Carter was President, but they did veto a resolution in 1985, when Reagen was President. I also remember Carter being critical of Begin during the peace talks between Israel and Egypt during that period. America's brief flirtation with impartiality during Carter's administration must have alarmed Israel greatly. No matter, it's been all one way traffic since.

Edited by Mark Stapleton

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Tony Blair has been rightly criticised by the media for appearing to be George Bush’s lap dog. He has just dashed off to Washington where he will try to persuade Bush to call for a cease-fire. No chance of course. One of the problems is that Bush’s support for Israel has increased his poll-ratings. It seems the American public think that the bombing of the Lebanon is likely to reduce the threat of terrorism. They clearly know nothing about politics in the Middle East.

It's quite incredible. Of course, Rupert Murdoch and friends try to ensure that the American public only get to hear one side of the debate. Hezbollah = Terrorism = Evil is the theme hammered home in all Murdoch's media outlets. All his 200 odd newspapers supported the invasion of Iraq. He's strongly pro-Israel. War and carnage also sells newspapers and increases ratings. It's win win. My opinion of Murdoch is unprintable.

Edited by Mark Stapleton

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I notice the US didn't veto UN resolution 425 calling for Israeli withdrawal in 1978, when Carter was President, but they did veto a resolution in 1985, when Reagen was President. I also remember Carter being critical of Begin during the peace talks between Israel and Egypt during that period. America's brief flirtation with impartiality during Carter's administration must have alarmed Israel greatly. No matter, it's been all one way traffic since.

One of the holds that Israel has over Bush junior is that it helped Bush senior overthrow Jimmy Carter (October Surprise). This is the story the Bush family is very keen not to emerge. This includes making death threats to journalists trying to uncover the story. See the thread on Robert W. Owen for background to this story.

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=7542

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