UN Security Council eases/removes financial sanctions imposed on Iraq because of its invasion of Kuwait

“Iraq has fulfilled all of its obligations”, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hosein Zeybari told the UN Security Council in New York just after it voted to remove financial and other sanctions imposed, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, following Iraq’s August 1990 of Kuwait.

[Iraq’s remaining obligations were placed, by the decision, under Chapter VI of the Charter…]

The UN said that the SC had unanimously adopted “resolution 2107 (2013), removing Iraq from its obligations under Chapter VII of the UN Charter concerning the return of Kuwaiti and third-State nationals or their remains and their property seized by Iraq’s former regime during its 1990 invasion of Kuwait”.

Middle East Monitor wrote here that “According to the UNSC resolution, Iraq has regained the international status it had before 1990”.

“Iraq is a rich country”, the Iraqi FM, and added that Iraq today is “a responsible and fully sovereign country”…

[Kuwait did not speak.]

Al-Arabiya reported here that “Iraq still needs to return missing property, national treasures and archives, as well as reparations for the invasion, in order to be embargo-free.  Iraq still owes around $11 billion to Kuwait. In total, Iraq was ordered by the U.N. to pay the Gulf country just over $52 billion. The debt is expected to be fully paid off by 2015…The resolution adopted Thursday calls on the Iraqi government to continue searching for more than 600 missing Kuwaitis and looted property but no longer allows for the measures to be enforced militarily”.

Who/What is Ahvaaz [Avaaz] and why did/do journalists trust them with their lives in Baba Amr

Who or What is Ahvaaz [Avaaz]?

And, why do veteran combat journalsts working for major news organizations trust Avaaz with their lives in getting into, and when inside, the Baba Amr quarter of Homs, Syria, which has been beseiged by the Syrian army on a mission to exterminate “Islamist terrorism”?

Ahvaaz [Avaaz]:
The name of an organization [a “global advocacy group”, The Telegraph coyly calls them] called Avaaz, has been mentioned as cooridinating closely with journalists covering the Syrian uprising, and in connection with their arrivals in besieged places like Baba Amr.

Their website is available in 14 or 15 languages at www.avaaz.org, here, they are on Twitter [@avaaz], and also Facebook — and they are interested in global matters — the oceans, the Amazon, the internet, and now Syria — identifying themselves as “a campaigning community” with 13 million members.

Their website says: “Avaaz—meaning ‘voice’ in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages—launched in 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want … Where other global civil society groups are composed of issue-specific networks of national chapters, each with its own staff, budget, and decision-making structure, Avaaz has a single, global team with a mandate to work on any issue of public concern–allowing campaigns of extraordinary nimbleness, flexibility, focus, and scale. Avaaz’s online community can act like a megaphone to call attention to new issues; a lightning rod to channel broad public concern into a specific, targeted campaign; a fire truck to rush an effective response to a sudden, urgent emergency; and a stem cell that grows into whatever form of advocacy or work is best suited to meet an urgent need”…

UPDATE: Julian Borger reported here in The Guardian on Tuesday night [28 February] that Avaaz was founded in 2007.

Borger adds that Avaaz “emerged out of activist groups in the US and Australia, including ResPublica, GetUp! and MoveOn.org. Its founding president is Ricken Patel, a Canadian-British veteran of the International Crisis Group, a global thinktank, and MoveOn.org, a progressive American group. He runs a team of campaigners around the world, with offices in New York, Rio, Delhi, Madrid and Sydney”.

And, Borger added. Avaaz “has taken on a prominent and more physically risky role in the Arab spring, providing satellite phones and other communication equipment to pro-democracy groups in Libya, Egypt and Syria … Amid the bloodshed of Syria, the organisation’s commitment is less likely to be queried. The question its critics are raising now is whether a group that started out in the high-tech safety of the internet has found itself out of its depth in a brutal conflict in the real world”.

While the first time I recall hearing the name Ahvaaz was in connection with an “uprising” against the Islamic Republic regime installed in Tehran that the Iranian authorities strongly believe was coordinated with the American CIA + British secret services, they also seemed to have some kind of association with the MEK — or, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq = a supposedly “leftist’ movement that was part of the resistance to the Shah of Iran prior to the Iranian revolution, but was then persecuted, and took up arms against the Islamic Republic, when they found an ally in Saddam Hussein who offered them shelter and a base came which they are now evacuating for relocation as refugees around the world, under great pressure.

Ahvaaz, if I am not mistaken [will check] is the Persian version of the name of [CORR: the capital city of Khuzestan, the] Arabic-speaking province [Ahwaz] in south-western Iran, bordering Iraq, the Shatt al-Arab, and the north-western shore of Iran along the Persian Gulf.  It was in the Ahvaaz province that the first clashes in the terrible Iran-Iraq war [end 1979 to August 1989] took place, between the freshly-installed Islamic Republic and a Saddam Hussein backed by the U.S., by all Arab states [officially, at least] and by all the “civilized world”.

Ahvaaz came in big, internationally, in social media more recently at a late phase of the Tahrir Square protests — and though nobody knew who they were, exactly, many otherwise savvy people were enthusiastic to support, if not join, their calls for signing petitions, etc., in support of the Tahrir movement.

Like the MEK, Avaaz seems to be very media-savvy, and have expertise in modern technology.

But, Avaaz is functioning differently than the MEK at the height of its influence. Avaaz is concentrating on social media, and video postings on the internet, as well as their new role of helping “smuggle” journalists into battle zones in closed Syria via routes they have access to in neighboring countries [Lebanon, and possibly Turkey — the Israel government is surely aware of this, but keeping a judicious quiet].

The Avaaz website explains this under the heading, Breaking the Middle East Black-out:

    “Funded by donations from almost 30,000 Avaazers, an Avaaz team is working closely with the leadership of democracy movements in Syria, Yemen, Libya and more to get them high-tech phones and satellite internet modems, connect them to the world’s top media outlets, and provide communications advice. We’ve seen the power of this engagement — where our support to activists has created global media cycles with footage and eyewitness accounts that our team helps distribute to CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and others. The courage of these activists is unbelievable — a skype message read ‘state security searching the house, my laptop battery dying, if not online tomorrow I’m dead or arrested’. He’s ok, and together we’re helping to get his and many other voices out to the world”

But, in Syria, things are not ok.

[Due to the dire situation, presumably, there is no particular information about Syria, at the moment, on the Avaaz website… UPDATE Yet, Avaaz states, here, that it “has been working with activists on the Syrian Spring since it started, setting up a network of over 400 Citizen Journalists across the country, smuggling in medicines and international journalists to report on the unfolding story and campaigning to ensure that sanctions and political pressure are applied on the Assad regime. The organisation is entirely funded by small donations from its members”.

UPDATE: An article published on The Guardian website last July, here, reports that “Since 2009, Avaaz has not taken donations from foundations or corporations, nor has it accepted payments of more than $5,000. Instead, it relies simply on the generosity of individual members, who have now raised over $20m. Much of this money goes towards specific campaigns. This year, $1.5m was raised to supply cameras to citizen journalists throughout the Arab world; as a result, much of the footage currently coming out of Syria was filmed on equipment provided by Avaaz”. The BBC picked up and rewrote this today, reporting rather lazily, here, that “Avaaz says it is independent and accountable because since 2009 it has been wholly member-funded”.]

Why should journalists trust Avaaz with their lives, as Marie Colvin did?

And, why are French photographers and filmmakers working so closely with Avaaz? [Are French photographers just more passionate and curious about the world? Or, do they have some kind of official backing?…]

If Avaaz is behind the recent quantum leap in improvement in the filming and video streaming of protests throughout Syria — particularly the dancing protests highlighted in our previous post — they deserve a lot of credit for their skills.

By comparison, the MEK, before it was labelled by the US as “terrorist organization”, a label which they have been fighting, used to function less as “local fixers” who can boost a foreign correspondent’s impact and reach, and more as an effective pressure group which was in regular contact with members of Congress and other governments, as well as everyone’s editors — and if a journalist didn’t seem enthusiastic about publishing their news, they would threaten to go to one’s editors. They implied that they could promote journalists’ careers — or of having them black-listed, and fired … Like other powerful and effective lobbies, the MEK traded in influence, and was feared.

More to follow later…

Wikileaks Iraq file – "the biggest military leak in history"

Asked by the U.S. government to refrain from publishing the anticipated WikiLeaks documents on Iraq, the American and international media is doing exactly the opposite.

The media coverage is extensive, and impressive work has already gone into analyzing the data – described as being mainly “secret field reports”.

An Al-Jazeera feature, about 7 minutes long, focuses on “escalation of force” killings at checkpoints in Iraq. In this Al-Jazeera report, a relative of one of the many victims saying that “if they [the U.S. military] are not held accountable now, they will do it again and again”.

Hundreds of civilians were “gunned down at checkpoints”, the Iraq War Logs report.

Torture in Iraq — a reason given to justify the overthrow of Saddam Hussein — did not stop with the U.S. invasion and occupation. The U.S. forces in the country “turned a blind eye”, several major media reported Friday evening, based on the WikiLeaks Iraq War Logs — which also show that abuse by U.S. troops continued [some 300 alleged cases have reportedly been discovered in the documents just released] after the Abu Ghraib prison revelations.

U.S. troops may have actually engaged Iranian combattants [Revolutionary Guards?] in Iraq, the Iraq War Logs suggest.

UN Security Council resolution 1546, adopted on 8 June 2004, stated that “by 30 June 2004, the occupation will end and the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist, and that Iraq will reassert its full sovereignty” — while “a fully sovereign and independent Interim Government of Iraq” was to assume full responsibility and authority, pending elections.

The Iraq War Logs cover the years from 2004 through 2009 [apparently, with some missing months].

The U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003, with major combat operations ending in May.  Then, a declared military occupation began.

WikiLeaks leaked the Iraq War Logs to at least a dozen major media outlets in advance, to allow time for story preparation. The New York Times has an editorial note here, saying they actually got the documents in June…

The NYTimes editors add that “Deciding whether to publish secret information is difficult, and after weighing the risks and public interest, we sometimes choose not to publish. But there are times when the information is of significant public interest, and this is one of those times … Government officials did not dispute that the information was authentic. It is sometimes unclear whether a particular incident report is based on firsthand observation, on the account of an intelligence source regarded as reliable, on less trustworthy sources or on speculation by the writer. It is also not known what may be missing from the material, either because it is in a more restrictive category of classification or for some other reason”.

A WikiLeaks tweet says that the Iraq War Logs “detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 ‘civilians’; 23,984 ‘enemy’; 15,196 ‘host nation’ [Iraqi security forces] and 3,771 ‘friendly’ [coalition troops].”

That is almost three times as many civilian deaths as “enemy”…  And it is far higher than earlier estimates.

The Iraq War Logs are now publicly available on WikiLeakshere — though servers are reportedly overloaded — and analyzed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism here.

The US Department of Defense’s made this response: “We strongly condemn the unauthorised disclosure of classified information and will not comment on these leaked documents other than to note that ‘significant activities’ reports are initial, raw observations by tactical units. They are essentially snapshots of events, both tragic and mundane, and do not tell the whole story. That said, the period covered by these reports has been well-chronicled in news stories, books and films and the release of these field reports does not bring new understanding to Iraq’s past. However, it does expose secret information that could make our troops even more vulnerable to attack in the future. Just as with the leaked Afghan documents, we know our enemies will mine this information looking for insights into how we operate, cultivate sources, and react in combat situations, even the capability of our equipment. This security breach could very well get our troops and those they are fighting with killed”. This is posted here.

In July, WikiLeaks released some 91,000 Afghan war documents.

Still too much death in Afghanistan – New Dawn in Iraq

In today’s news:
Karzai says NATO still causes too many civilian deaths: “Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday that NATO’s efforts to prevent civilian deaths during its operations are not enough because innocent people keep dying, as the military alliance continued its offensive in a key Taliban stronghold … Karzai said that NATO has made progress in reducing civilian casualties and air bombardments — which have been responsible for some of the largest incidents of civilian deaths … However, Karzai stressed that the effort is not sufficient. ‘We need to reach the point where there are no civilian casualties,” Karzai said. “Our effort and our criticism will continue until we reach that goal’.” See full report here.

Dutch government collapses over Afghanistan mission: The Dutch coalition government collapsed Saturday over whether to extend the country’s military mission in Afghanistan, leaving uncertain the future of its 1,600 soldiers fighting there. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende announced that the second largest party in his three-party alliance is quitting … Balkenende made no mention of elections as he spoke to reporters after a 16-hour Cabinet meeting in The Hague that ended close to dawn. However, the resignation of the Labor Party — which has demanded the country stick to a scheduled withdrawal from Afghanistan — would leave his government with an unworkable majority, and political analysts said early elections appeared inevitable … Dutch soldiers have been deployed since 2006 in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan on a two-year stint that was extended until next August. Labor demanded that Dutch troops leave Uruzgan as scheduled. Balkenende’s Christian Democratic Alliance wanted to keep a trimmed down military presence in the restive province, where 21 soldiers have been killed. ‘A plan was agreed to when our soldiers went to Afghanistan’, said Labor Party leader Wouter Bos. ‘Our partners in the government didn’t want to stick to that plan, and on the basis of their refusal we have decided to resign from this government’. NATO recently sent a letter to the government asking if it would consider staying longer — a move that the Western alliance normally would do only if it had a clear signal of agreement. ‘The future of the mission of our soldiers in Afghanistan will now be in the hands of the new Cabinet’, said Deputy Defense Minister Jack de Vries” … Opinion polls suggest the Afghan war is deeply unpopular”. The full report is here.

New Name for War in Iraq: “The Obama administration has decided to give the war in Iraq a new name — ‘Operation New Dawn’ — to reflect the reduced role U.S. troops will play in securing the country this year as troop levels fall, according to a memo from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates [to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander for the region]. Since U.S. forces charged across the Kuwaiti border toward Baghdad in 2003, the war has been known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. The new name is scheduled to take effect in September, when U.S. troop levels are supposed to drop to about 50,000 … Such name changes are not unusual. The name of the 1991 Persian Gulf War changed as the mission changed, from Operation Desert Shield to Operation Desert Storm and then finally to Operation Southern Watch and Operation Northern Watch”. This report is published here

The Gates memo was first reported by ABC Television news, which posted it on its website — 17 Feb 2010 Request to change the name Operation Iraqi Freedom to Iraqi New Dawn: “… to take effect 1 Sept 2010 … Aligning the name change with the change of mission sends a strong signal that Operation IRAQI FREEDOM has ended and our forces are operating under a new mission. It also presents opportunities to synchronize strategic communication initiatives, reinforce our commitment to honor the Security Agreement, and recognize our evolving relationship with the Iraqi government”. The original memo is posted here.

Do legal memos on torture exonerate Private Graner and Lynndie England?

The Washington Post reports that the recent release of Justice Department [Office of Legal Affairs] memos [addressed to the CIA] authorizing the use of “harsh interrogation techniques” has given Army Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr and other soldiers [including Lynndie R. England] “new reason to argue that they were made scapegoats for policies approved at high levels. They also contend that the government’s refusal to acknowledge those polices when Graner and others were tried undermined their legal defenses. Graner remains locked up at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, about halfway through a 10-year prison sentence for detainee abuse, assault and dereliction of duty. His lawyer said this week that he is drafting appeals arguments centered largely on the revelations in the memos and a newly released congressional investigation into the interrogation practices … When the photos of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq surfaced in 2004, U.S. officials portrayed … Graner as the ringleader of a few low-ranking ‘bad apples’ who illegally put naked Iraqi detainees in painful positions, shackled them to cell doors with women’s underwear on their heads and menaced them with military dogs … Graner and other defendants — including Lynndie England, who was photographed holding a naked detainee by a leash — were blocked by military judges from calling senior U.S. officials to the stand at their trials in 2004 and 2005. The government would not acknowledge any policy or procedure that could have led to what the world saw in the photographs. Some of what the guards at Abu Ghraib did, such as throwing hooded detainees into walls, echoes tactics authorized in the Justice Department memos, such as ‘walling’, in which interrogators were allowed to push detainees in CIA custody into a flexible wall designed to make a loud noise … Charles Gittins, a Virginia lawyer who represents Graner, said he has been fuming since reading the memos. He said he has long believed that there was no way Graner and the other Army Reservists invented techniques such as stress positions, leashing and the use of dogs, and he says the documents confirmed his suspicions … Gittins said he hopes to convince the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces that top officials improperly influenced the court and kept evidence from the defense. According to the memos and congressional documents, U.S. officials reverse-engineered techniques from U.S. survival training courses designed to teach troops how to endure capture and interrogation. Justice and Defense department officials approved the use of dogs, nudity, stress positions, sleep deprivation and other techniques. Those tactics, according to the documents, were put into use at the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in the CIA’s secret prisons, and eventually were adopted in Afghanistan and Iraq after then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s approval was forwarded from officials at Guantanamo to Capt. Carolyn Wood, a military intelligence officer. She told investigators that she then sought approvals in Afghanistan for the tactics and brought them with her to Iraq and Abu Ghraib. Senior officers in Iraq also approved the methods there”.

Whatever the similarities — and there are many — the Washington Post article notes that “the Abu Ghraib photographs also depicted some actions, such as punching or stomping, that bear no relation to the techniques described in the memos, as well as others that were improvised by guards, such as forcing detainees to masturbate or to form human pyramids while naked”.

This article can be read in full here.

Some of the comments on this article argue that, regardless of orders emanating from above, the Army prison guards were nonetheless still guilty of abuse and torture: lrobby1 commented, for example, that “Private Graner was brutally sadistic toward the Iraqi detainees. There are videos on Google here that show him torturing prisoners. The other guards were also guilty of horrifically abusing military detainees and they should all be punished. Lawyers for the DOJ, including Alberto Gonzales, legitimized the torture of military detainees and provided justification for their abuse. But neither the legal memos nor the authorizations by Rumsfeld and others approved of urinating on prisoners, pulling out pubic and chest hairs, sexual molestation, electrocution, pyramiding detainees, sodomizing prisoners or dragging them naked on concrete floors … no one knows exactly how many people were disappeared into blacksites and ultimately killed. While I still believe that a thorough investigation of those involved in the authorization of torture should be conducted, lawyers should be disbarred and Bush Administration officials should be prosecuted, I also believe that Pvt. Graner and the other guards were justifiably punished for their own actions”.

Was torture used knowingly to extract false information … to justify invasion of Iraq?

A NYTimes oped piece today suggests that “Perhaps some new facts may yet emerge if Dick Cheney succeeds in his unexpected and welcome crusade to declassify documents that he says will exonerate administration interrogation policies [on harsh interrogation techniques — meaning torture] . Meanwhile, we do have evidence for an alternative explanation of what motivated Bybee to write his memo that August, thanks to the comprehensive Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainees released last week. The report found that Maj. Paul Burney, a United States Army psychiatrist assigned to interrogations in Guantánamo Bay that summer of 2002, told Army investigators of another White House imperative: ‘A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful’. As higher-ups got more ‘frustrated’ at the inability to prove this connection, the major said, ‘there was more and more pressure to resort to measures’ that might produce that intelligence.

Continue reading Was torture used knowingly to extract false information … to justify invasion of Iraq?

Now, a U.S. Senate report shows how Pentagon contributed to CIA torture

Released yesterday, a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Report states that “The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees”.

The U.S. Senate report said that it was a Presidential Order signed by George W. Bush on 7 February 2002 that opened the door to “aggressive techniques” for interrogations — or, to what became torture.

Continue reading Now, a U.S. Senate report shows how Pentagon contributed to CIA torture

Abu Zubaida – CIA had a plan to place him in confinement box with insects

Abu Zubaydah “suffered an injury during capture” — he “sustained a wound during capture which is being treated”, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), Jay Bybee, wrote in a memo dated 1 August 2002, yet authorization was given to torture him anyway. One torture contemplated — but apparently not used — was placing one of more insects, which Abu Zubayda would have been told were stinging insects, into a confinement box with him: “you have informed us that he appears to have a fear of insects”, according to an analysis of the Bybee memo by Jason Leopold.

Continue reading Abu Zubaida – CIA had a plan to place him in confinement box with insects

Iraqi journalist throws shoes at Bush during Baghdad news conference

Bush himself says he is now trying to think of shoe jokes, but I am concerned that journalists all over the world will henceforth be made to remove their shoes before attending press conferences…

I also wonder how many will “defend until death” this journalist’s right to express his opinion about outgoing U.S. President George Bush’s invasion and on-going military occupation of Iraq? And how many will instead denounce the behavior — judging that the way that this journalist expressed himself that was wrong, impolite, futile, stupid, and/or violent?

A dear friend here in Jerusalem has just told me that she wished that all the journalists present at that press conference in Baghdad had also taken off their shoes and thrown them at Bush, in solidarity with al-Zeidi’s gesture.

But, many of the journalists’ actual responses were very different — rather more careerist. The NYTimes reported that “Like many Iraqi reporters at the news conference, Mr. Nassar [Haider Nassar, who worked with him at Baghdadia] said he did not think this was an effective way for Mr. Zaidi to make his points. ‘This is so silly; it’s just the behavior of an individual’, Mr. Nassar said. ‘He destroyed his future’.”

An AP story from Baghdad reported another journalistic colleague also criticizing Al-Zeidi: “‘He was very boastful, arrogant and always showing off’, said Zanko Ahmed, a Kurdish journalist who attended a journalism training course with al-Zeidi in Lebanon. ‘He tried to raise topics to show that nobody is as smart as he is’ … ‘Regrettably, he didn’t learn anything from the course in Lebanon, where we were taught ethics of journalism and how to be detached and neutral’, Ahmed said”.

This same AP story added that “Al-Zeidi was held Monday in Iraqi custody for investigation and could face charges of insulting a foreign leader and the Iraqi prime minister, who was standing next to Bush. Conviction carries a sentence of up to two years in prison or a small fine — although it’s unlikely he would face the maximum penalty given his newfound cult status in the Arab world”. The full AP report can be read here.

Yet another AP report said that “many in the Mideast saw the act by an Iraqi journalist as heroic, expressing the deep, personal contempt many feel for the American leader they blame for years of bloodshed, chaos and the suffering of civilians. Images of Bush ducking the fast-flying shoes at a Baghdad press conference, aired repeatedly on Arab satellite TV networks, were cathartic for many in the Middle East, who have for years felt their own leaders kowtow to the American president. So the sight of an average Arab standing up and making a public show of resentment was stunning. The pride, joy and bitterness it uncorked showed how many Arabs place their anger on Bush personally for what they see as a litany of crimes — chief among them the turmoil in Iraq and tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths since the 2003 U.S. invasion”. This AP story can be seen in full here .

In its story, the NY Times reported that “The Iraqi journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi, 28, a correspondent for Al Baghdadia, an independent Iraqi television station, stood up about 12 feet from Mr. Bush and shouted in Arabic: ‘This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!’ He then threw a shoe at Mr. Bush, who ducked and narrowly avoided it. As stunned security agents and guards, officials and journalists watched, Mr. Zaidi then threw his other shoe, shouting in Arabic, ‘This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!’ That shoe also narrowly missed Mr. Bush as Prime Minister Maliki stuck a hand in front of the president’s face to help shield him. Mr. Maliki’s security agents jumped on the man, wrestled him to the floor and hustled him out of the room. They kicked him and beat him until ‘he was crying like a woman’, said Mohammed Taher, a reporter for Afaq, a television station owned by the Dawa Party, which is led by Mr. Maliki. [This sexist language is revolting]Mr. Zaidi was then detained on unspecified charges … In the chaos, Dana M. Perino, the White House press secretary, who was visibly distraught, was struck in the eye by a microphone stand.” This NYTimes story can be read in full here.

AP reported that “The crowd [does this mean also the other journalists sitting near Mr. Zaidi, some of whom reportedly offered words of apology to Bush for the incident?] descended on al-Zeidi, who works for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt. He was wrestled to the ground by security officials and then hauled away, moaning as they departed the room. Later, a trail of fresh blood could be seen on the carpet, although the source was not known … …Al-Baghdadia’s Baghdad manager told the AP he had no idea what prompted his reporter to go on the attack. ‘I am trying to reach Muntadar since the incident, but in vain’, said Fityan Mohammed. ‘His phone is switched off’. The station issued a statement on the air Sunday night asking the Iraqi government to release al-Zeidi ‘to spare his life’…” The AP story can be read in full here

What if the shoe had actually hit Bush?

(You did notice the agile move of the President ducking the first shoe, right? But the second shoe somehow caught Bush by surprise, and he winced and flinched as it was thrown, drawing his head down into his collar, as beside him Iraqi PM Maliki reflexively thrust his hand — with open palm facing the journalists and fingers rather ineffectively widespread — somewhere in the general direction of Bush’s face, like a fan trying to catch a wide shot from the bleachers of a baseball game…)

The AP “Reporter’s Notebook” story added that “When Bush met with reporters later aboard Air Force One, he had a joke prepared: ‘I didn’t know what the guy said but I saw his “sole”.’ Later, he said: ‘I’m going to be thinking of shoe jokes for a long time. I haven’t heard any good ones yet’.”

The AP story also reported that Bush said, as the room erupted into chaos, “Don’t worry about it”, and added that “Iraqi reporters started shouting what Bush later explained were apologies for the incident”. And, AP, added, Bush said: ” ‘So what if the guy threw a shoe at me?’ … comparing the action to political protests in the United States”.

Thoughts from a Gore Vidal interview

Here are some excerpts from an apparently rare interview with Gore Vidal in last Sunday’s (25 May) issue of The Independent. The interview was done by Robert Chalmers:

“You would consider yourself to be living under a dishonourable regime?” “Absolutely.”

“With a corrupt president?” “Yes.”

“Who cheated his way to power?” “Oh, yes.”

“Is this the most pernicious US government you have ever experienced?” “Yes. It is inconceivably bad. There is nothing that one could ever have imagined to be so bad.”

“So what hope do you have for what you’ve described as the American Empire?” “None. It’s finished.”

“How do you see it ending?” “No more money.”

He has talked many times about his readiness to proceed – serenely – through what he terms “the exit door”. “What do you expect to find on the other side?” “Nothing.” …
“But you’re convinced that, to put it crudely, when you die, that’s it.” “No,” Vidal replies. “I wouldn’t say: ‘When you die, that’s it.’ I’d say: ‘When you’re born, that’s it.'”

The full interview can be read here .