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The UN Has Finally Died

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MER Comment:

''Blowing the U.N. a goodbye kiss''

Printed on Monday, November 11, 2002

By Paul Harris

(YellowTimes.org - 11 Nov) – The United Nations has finally died. We all knew it has been sickly since its birth, but talk of its imminent demise has always been exaggerated. For close to six decades, it has struggled with sporadic effort and mixed results against the injustices of the world, against the inequities, and the military brutality that have been the hallmarks of its stewardship. In the end, it finally gave up the battle and took its own life.

Last week, a vote was held at the insistence of the United States regarding sanctions against and military intervention in Iraq. Despite overwhelming evidence that the rest of the U.N. members know the American position is simply a ploy to obtain Iraqi oil, the members unanimously caved in out of fear of the United States. The U.N., by that vote, has now officially declared itself to be of no value.

As in all deaths, there will be grieving relatives and family members, but on this one occasion there will be one survivor wildly cheering at this funeral: the United States. It is perhaps ironic that in all the bluster and rhetoric leading up to this vote, American President Bush and his catamite, Tony Blair of Great Britain, repeatedly harangued the U.N. abion: form-data; name="message"

MER Comment:

''Blowing the U.N. a goodbye kiss''

Printed on Monday, November 11, 2002

By Paul Harris

(YellowTimes.org - 11 Nov) – The United Nations has finally died. We all knew it has been sickly since its birth, but talk of its imminent demise has always been exaggerated. For close to six decades, it has struggled with sporadic effort and mixed results against the injustices of the world, against the inequities, and the military brutality that have been the hallmarks of its stewardship. In the end, it finally gave up the battle and took its own life.

Last week, a vote was held at the insistence of the United States regarding sanctions against and military intervention in Iraq. Despite overwhelming evidence that the rest of the U.N. members know the American position is simply a ploy to obtain Iraqi oil, the members unanimously caved in out of fear of the United States. The U.N., by that vote, has now officially declared itself to be of no value.

As in all deaths, there will be grieving relatives and family members, but on this one occasion there will be one survivor wildly cheering at this funeral: the United States. It is perhaps ironic that in all the bluster and rhetoric leading up to this vote, American President Bush and his catamite, Tony Blair of Great Britain, repeatedly harangued the U.N. about supporting the U.S. position or effectively showing itself to be irrelevant. In fact, of course, precisely the opposite would have been true but the U.N. took the bait and bent over for the Americans. The result: they achieved the irrelevance that Bush warned they would achieve if they actually stood by their principles and rejected U.S. demands for compliance and complicity.

From the outset, the U.N. has been unable to establish itself as anything worth having. Certainly when the initial founding discussions occurred, as outlined in the Preamble to the United Nations Charter, a vision of an organization was espoused that pledged member nations to: practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors; to unite [their] strength to maintain international peace and security; to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest; and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples. But where is the evidence that it has ever come close to achieving any of those lofty ideals? Where is the evidence that any of the member states ever really wanted it to reach these goals?

While not quite stillborn, the U.N. had a troubled youth and did not manage to pass gracefully into its middle years. out supporting the U.S. position or effectively showing itself to be irrelevant. In fact, of course, precisely the opposite would have been true but the U.N. took the bait and bent over for the Americans. The result: they achieved the irrelevance that Bush warned they would achieve if they actually stood by their principles and rejected U.S. demands for compliance and complicity.

From the outset, the U.N. has been unable to establish itself as anything worth having. Certainly when the initial founding discussions occurred, as outlined in the Preamble to the United Nations Charter, a vision of an organization was espoused that pledged member nations to: practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors; to unite [their] strength to maintain international peace and security; to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest; and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples. But where is the evidence that it has ever come close to achieving any of those lofty ideals? Where is the evidence that any of the member states ever really wanted it to reach these goals?

While not quite stillborn, the U.N. had a troubled youth and did not manage to pass gracefully into its middle years. The name first arose when Franklin Roosevelt used it to describe the countries fighting against the Axis in 1941 (which, by the way, did not at that time include the United States). In 1942, some 26 nations signed a 'Declaration by the United Nations' pledging that they would jointly continue in their war effort and none of those countries would agree to make peace separately. After a few more years of war and of planning for the aftermath of the war, those same countries finally reached agreement over the founding charter of the United Nations. It officially came into existence October 24, 1945. It has been on life support ever since.

The U.N. is a very complicated organization and it has not evolved as originally envisaged. It was first comprised largely of the Allies of World War II and it was conceived to be an organization of 'peace-loving' nations who were combining to prevent future aggression and for other humanitarian purposes. It was intended to have a regular military force, which would be utilized for keeping the peace within rogue nations or intervening in military aggression between nations. Naturally, it was assumed that the members of the United Nations would not be the bad guys, so this was thought to be an exclusive club that would keep the rest of thThe name first arose when Franklin Roosevelt used it to describe the countries fighting against the Axis in 1941 (which, by the way, did not at that time include the United States). In 1942, some 26 nations signed a 'Declaration by the United Nations' pledging that they would jointly continue in their war effort and none of those countries would agree to make peace separately. After a few more years of war and of planning for the aftermath of the war, those same countries finally reached agreement over the founding charter of the United Nations. It officially came into existence October 24, 1945. It has been on life support ever since.

The U.N. is a very complicated organization and it has not evolved as originally envisaged. It was first comprised largely of the Allies of World War II and it was conceived to be an organization of 'peace-loving' nations who were combining to prevent future aggression and for other humanitarian purposes. It was intended to have a regular military force, which would be utilized for keeping the peace within rogue nations or intervening in military aggression between nations. Naturally, it was assumed that the members of the United Nations would not be the bad guys, so this was thought to be an exclusive club that would keep the rest of the world in tow. Other than a few instances where the U.N. did have military involvement under its own banner (for example, Congo, Nicosia, Korea), the member nations have largely gone about doing as they see fit, both to one another and to any nations remaining outside the fold.

Now, virtually all countries with but a few exceptions are members of the United Nations. At least they are members of the U.N.'s General Assembly. This is an utterly powerless body which is designed to make these countries feel that they are contributing something and that they actually have some input into the things that affect them and their allies. In reality, it is simply an exercise in puffery and a reason for them to have to pay membership dues. The General Assembly frequently expresses its feelings about world situations by voting on resolutions, which are meant to convey the organization's displeasure with some state's activities, but most such resolutions are ignored. Most notable is a multitude of resolutions citing or condemning Israel, which have never so much as raised an eyebrow in Tel Aviv, let alone caused Israel to alter its activities or policies.

To be fair, it is noteworthy that the General Assembly is also the source of a number of committees designed to deal with humanitarian issues. These are generally considered to be about the only successful use of ae world in tow. Other than a few instances where the U.N. did have military involvement under its own banner (for example, Congo, Nicosia, Korea), the member nations have largely gone about doing as they see fit, both to one another and to any nations remaining outside the fold.

Now, virtually all countries with but a few exceptions are members of the United Nations. At least they are members of the U.N.'s General Assembly. This is an utterly powerless body which is designed to make these countries feel that they are contributing something and that they actually have some input into the things that affect them and their allies. In reality, it is simply an exercise in puffery and a reason for them to have to pay membership dues. The General Assembly frequently expresses its feelings about world situations by voting on resolutions, which are meant to convey the organization's displeasure with some state's activities, but most such resolutions are ignored. Most notable is a multitude of resolutions citing or condemning Israel, which have never so much as raised an eyebrow in Tel Aviv, let alone caused Israel to alter its activities or policies.

To be fair, it is noteworthy that the General Assembly is also the source of a number of committees designed to deal with humanitarian issues. These are generally considered to be about the only successful use of all this international good will of which the U.N. can legitimately boast.

The only real power within the U.N. rests in the Security Council. This is a body made of five permanent members (United States, Britain, France, China, and Russia) and an additional ten countries whose members are elected by the General Assembly on a rotational basis. In all practical ways, it is the five permanent members whose wishes carry the day. In other words, by charter, the U.N. was never intended to be a body for the world; it was meant to be a body for the five big guys to institutionalize their suzerainty over the rest of the world. That goal, it achieved quite nicely.

Unfortunately, the birth of the U.N. coincided with the birth of the Cold War and because of the strains placed on the members of the Security Council, there has rarely been any effective cooperation between those members. For forty-six years, the United States led a bloc of countries in opposition to a smaller bloc siding with the former Soviet Union; with the end of the Cold War, those alliances effectively ended. The United States and Russia started finally to cooperate but only in an effort to keep power and authority within the Security Council. However, this almost always led to stultified inaction.

Over the years, many countries have failed to honor their financial commitments to the U.N. Mostll this international good will of which the U.N. can legitimately boast.

The only real power within the U.N. rests in the Security Council. This is a body made of five permanent members (United States, Britain, France, China, and Russia) and an additional ten countries whose members are elected by the General Assembly on a rotational basis. In all practical ways, it is the five permanent members whose wishes carry the day. In other words, by charter, the U.N. was never intended to be a body for the world; it was meant to be a body for the five big guys to institutionalize their suzerainty over the rest of the world. That goal, it achieved quite nicely.

Unfortunately, the birth of the U.N. coincided with the birth of the Cold War and because of the strains placed on the members of the Security Council, there has rarely been any effective cooperation between those members. For forty-six years, the United States led a bloc of countries in opposition to a smaller bloc siding with the former Soviet Union; with the end of the Cold War, those alliances effectively ended. The United States and Russia started finally to cooperate but only in an effort to keep power and authority within the Security Council. However, this almost always led to stultified inaction.

Over the years, many countries have failed to honor their financial commitments to the U.N. Most notable at this time is the United States who negotiated a smaller commitment for itself but has refused to pay anyway, at the behest of the American people (or, rather, its Congress, which is universally understood to be something quite different from the American people). This greatly weakened this already sickly child and has made it impossible for the U.N. to do much that is useful.

Accordingly, the U.N. has had a tough road over the years. Its own structure has created constipation and there has been little will amongst the members for a good stiff enema. From the outset, the U.N. has had very little actual legal or moral authority. The powerful nations simply do whatever they wish without regard for condemnation by the U.N., while the weaker nations know that they must behave or face severe consequences.

But still, idealists would have hoped that the members of the United Nations could work together to forge a better world. The idealists would have hoped for something akin to universal justice, universal law, a gradual breaking down of the political borders between countries, and the establishment of a single world order in which the benefit of all would be the goal. The idealists might have hoped for the elimination of hunger (well within our control), the elimination of most diseases (well within our control), the elimination of centuries of w notable at this time is the United States who negotiated a smaller commitment for itself but has refused to pay anyway, at the behest of the American people (or, rather, its Congress, which is universally understood to be something quite different from the American people). This greatly weakened this already sickly child and has made it impossible for the U.N. to do much that is useful.

Accordingly, the U.N. has had a tough road over the years. Its own structure has created constipation and there has been little will amongst the members for a good stiff enema. From the outset, the U.N. has had very little actual legal or moral authority. The powerful nations simply do whatever they wish without regard for condemnation by the U.N., while the weaker nations know that they must behave or face severe consequences.

But still, idealists would have hoped that the members of the United Nations could work together to forge a better world. The idealists would have hoped for something akin to universal justice, universal law, a gradual breaking down of the political borders between countries, and the establishment of a single world order in which the benefit of all would be the goal. The idealists might have hoped for the elimination of hunger (well within our control), the elimination of most diseases (well within our control), the elimination of centuries of warfare (entirely within our control). But idealists are naïve; they must know that all evidence shows clearly that mankind has not actually evolved far enough to work as a group toward the betterment of all. We still operate purely from narrow self-interest and greed; we still allow our testosterone-laced leaders to sacrifice everyone else's lives and welfare as they see fit; people all over the world still refuse to put down their weapons, roll up their sleeves, and try to make this a better place for everyone.

So perhaps this is a death that is long overdue. Perhaps it is time to recognize that we really are one of the Creator's hugest blunders and to stop trying to pretend that we are civilized. You know the old expression: you can take the Neanderthal out of the cave, but you can't take the cave out of the Neanderthal.

There is no longer any will in the world to stand up against the power of the guys who are trying to make the world their oyster. So why bother with an organization whose goal was allegedly to make the world a better place, but which failed at almost every turn? What we are presently seeing is much like watching hundreds of sheep running in fear from a single vicious dog that wants to herd them in some direction. There are far more of them than there are of him, yet they do it. They are mesmerized with fear because they know the dog arfare (entirely within our control). But idealists are naïve; they must know that all evidence shows clearly that mankind has not actually evolved far enough to work as a group toward the betterment of all. We still operate purely from narrow self-interest and greed; we still allow our testosterone-laced leaders to sacrifice everyone else's lives and welfare as they see fit; people all over the world still refuse to put down their weapons, roll up their sleeves, and try to make this a better place for everyone.

So perhaps this is a death that is long overdue. Perhaps it is time to recognize that we really are one of the Creator's hugest blunders and to stop trying to pretend that we are civilized. You know the old expression: you can take the Neanderthal out of the cave, but you can't take the cave out of the Neanderthal.

There is no longer any will in the world to stand up against the power of the guys who are trying to make the world their oyster. So why bother with an organization whose goal was allegedly to make the world a better place, but which failed at almost every turn? What we are presently seeing is much like watching hundreds of sheep running in fear from a single vicious dog that wants to herd them in some direction. There are far more of them than there are of him, yet they do it. They are mesmerized with fear because they know the dog could turn on any one of them, at any time, and sink its fangs into their throats.

So goodbye, U.N. Now that you're gone, we can all get back to the business of trying to bugger each other.

[Paul Harris is self-employed as a consultant providing Canadian businesses with the tools and expertise to successfully reintegrate their sick or injured employees into the workplace. He has traveled extensively in what we arrogant North Americans refer to as "the Third World," and he believes that life is very much like a sewer: what you get out of it depends on what you put into it. Paul lives in Canada.]

Paul Harris encourages your comments: pharrisYellowTimes.org

http://www.yellowtimes.com/article.php?sid=852

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Bush's Mideast plan: Conquer and divide

By ERIC MARGOLIS -- Contributing Foreign Editor

NEW YORK -- Arms inspections are a "hoax," said Tariq Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime minister, in a forthright and chilling interview with ABC News last week. "War is inevitable."

Aziz is the smartest, most credible member of President Saddam Hussein's otherwise sinister regime - my view after covering Iraq since 1976.

What the U.S. wants is not "regime change" in Iraq but rather "region change," charged Aziz. He tersely summed up the Bush administration's reasons for war against Iraq: "Oil and Israel."

Aziz's undiplomatic language underlines growing fears across the Mideast that U.S. President George Bush intends to use a manufactured war against Iraq to redraw the political map of the region, put it under permanent U.S. military control, and seize its vast oil resources.

These are not idle alarms.

Senior administration officials openly speak of invading Iran, Syria, Libya and Lebanon. Influential neo-conservative think-tanks in Washington have deployed a small army of "experts" on TV, urging the U.S. to remove governments deemed unfriendly to the U.S. and Israel.

Washington's most powerful lobbies - for oil and Israel - are urging the U.S. to seize Mideast oil and crush any regional states that might one day challenge Israel's nuclear monopoly or regional dominance.

The radical transformation of the Mideast being considered by the Bush administration is potentially the biggest political change since the notorious 1916 Sykes-Picot Treaty in which victorious Britain and France carved up the Ottoman-ruled region.

Possible scenarios under review at the highest levels:

Iraq is to be placed under U.S. military rule. Iraq's leadership, notably Saddam Hussein and Aziz, will face U.S. drumhead courts martial and firing squads.

Iraq will be broken up into three semi-autonomous regions: Kurdish north;ainst Iraq: "Oil and Israel."

Aziz's undiplomatic language underlines growing fears across the Mideast that U.S. President George Bush intends to use a manufactured war against Iraq to redraw the political map of the region, put it under permanent U.S. military control, and seize its vast oil resources.

These are not idle alarms.

Senior administration officials openly speak of invading Iran, Syria, Libya and Lebanon. Influential neo-conservative think-tanks in Washington have deployed a small army of "experts" on TV, urging the U.S. to remove governments deemed unfriendly to the U.S. and Israel.

Washington's most powerful lobbies - for oil and Israel - are urging the U.S. to seize Mideast oil and crush any regional states that might one day challenge Israel's nuclear monopoly or regional dominance.

The radical transformation of the Mideast being considered by the Bush administration is potentially the biggest political change since the notorious 1916 Sykes-Picot Treaty in which victorious Britain and France carved up the Ottoman-ruled region.

Possible scenarios under review at the highest levels:

Iraq is to be placed under U.S. military rule. Iraq's leadership, notably Saddam Hussein and Aziz, will face U.S. drumhead courts martial and firing squads.

Iraq will be broken up into three semi-autonomous regions: Kurdish north; Sunni centre; Shia south. Iraq's oil will be exploited by U.S. and British firms. Iraq will become a major customer for U.S. arms. Turkey may get a slice of northern Iraq around the Kirkuk and Mosul oil fields. U.S. forces will repress any attempts by Kurds to set up an independent state. A military dictatorship or kingdom will eventually be created.

The swift, ruthless crushing of Iraq is expected to terrify Arab states, Palestinians and Iran into obeying U.S. political dictates.

Independent-minded Syria will be ordered to cease support for Lebanon's Hezbollah, and allow Israel to dominate Jordan and Lebanon, or face invasion and "regime change." The U.S. will anyway undermine the ruling Ba'ath regime and young leader, Bashir Assad, replacing him with a French-based exile regime. France will get renewed influence in Syria as a consolation prize for losing out in Iraq to the Americans and Brits. Historical note: in 1949, the U.S. staged its first coup in Syria, using Gen. Husni Zai'im to overthrow a civilian government.

Iran a principal foe

Iran will be severely pressured to dismantle its nuclear and missile programs or face attack by U.S. forces. Israel's rightist Likud party, which guides much of the Bush administration's Mideast thinking, sees Iran, not demolished Iraq, as its principal foe and threat, and is pressing Washington to at Sunni centre; Shia south. Iraq's oil will be exploited by U.S. and British firms. Iraq will become a major customer for U.S. arms. Turkey may get a slice of northern Iraq around the Kirkuk and Mosul oil fields. U.S. forces will repress any attempts by Kurds to set up an independent state. A military dictatorship or kingdom will eventually be created.

The swift, ruthless crushing of Iraq is expected to terrify Arab states, Palestinians and Iran into obeying U.S. political dictates.

Independent-minded Syria will be ordered to cease support for Lebanon's Hezbollah, and allow Israel to dominate Jordan and Lebanon, or face invasion and "regime change." The U.S. will anyway undermine the ruling Ba'ath regime and young leader, Bashir Assad, replacing him with a French-based exile regime. France will get renewed influence in Syria as a consolation prize for losing out in Iraq to the Americans and Brits. Historical note: in 1949, the U.S. staged its first coup in Syria, using Gen. Husni Zai'im to overthrow a civilian government.

Iran a principal foe

Iran will be severely pressured to dismantle its nuclear and missile programs or face attack by U.S. forces. Israel's rightist Likud party, which guides much of the Bush administration's Mideast thinking, sees Iran, not demolished Iraq, as its principal foe and threat, and is pressing Washington to attack Iran once Iraq is finished off. At minimum, the U.S. will encourage an uprising against Iran's Islamic regime, replacing it with either a royalist government or one drawn from U.S.-based Iranian exiles.

Saudi Arabia will be allowed to keep the royal family in power, but compelled to become more responsive to U.S. demands and to clamp down on its increasingly anti-American population. If this fails, the CIA is reportedly cultivating senior Saudi air force officers who could overthrow the royal family and bring in a compliant military regime like that of Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. Or, partition Saudi Arabia, making the oil-rich eastern portion an American protectorate.

The most important Arab nation, Egypt - with 40% of all Arabs - will remain a bastion of U.S. influence. The U.S. controls 50% of Egypt's food supply, 85% of its arms and spare parts, and keeps the military regime of Gen. Hosni Mubarak in power. Once leader of the Arab world, Egypt is keeping a very low profile in the Iraq crisis, meekly co-operating with American war plans.

Jordan is a U.S.-Israeli protectorate and its royal family, the Hashemites, are being considered as possible figurehead rulers of U.S.-occupied "liberated" Iraq; more remotely, for Saudi Arabia and/or Syria.

The Gulf Emirates and Oman, former British protectorates and now American protecttack Iran once Iraq is finished off. At minimum, the U.S. will encourage an uprising against Iran's Islamic regime, replacing it with either a royalist government or one drawn from U.S.-based Iranian exiles.

Saudi Arabia will be allowed to keep the royal family in power, but compelled to become more responsive to U.S. demands and to clamp down on its increasingly anti-American population. If this fails, the CIA is reportedly cultivating senior Saudi air force officers who could overthrow the royal family and bring in a compliant military regime like that of Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. Or, partition Saudi Arabia, making the oil-rich eastern portion an American protectorate.

The most important Arab nation, Egypt - with 40% of all Arabs - will remain a bastion of U.S. influence. The U.S. controls 50% of Egypt's food supply, 85% of its arms and spare parts, and keeps the military regime of Gen. Hosni Mubarak in power. Once leader of the Arab world, Egypt is keeping a very low profile in the Iraq crisis, meekly co-operating with American war plans.

Jordan is a U.S.-Israeli protectorate and its royal family, the Hashemites, are being considered as possible figurehead rulers of U.S.-occupied "liberated" Iraq; more remotely, for Saudi Arabia and/or Syria.

The Gulf Emirates and Oman, former British protectorates and now American protectorates, are already, in effect, tiny colonies.

In Libya, madcap Col. Moammar Khadafy remains on Washington's black list and is marked for extinction once bigger game is bagged. The U.S. wants Libya's high-quality oil. Britain may reassert its former influence here.

Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, short of revolution, will remain loyal western satraps under highly repressive, French-backed royalist and military regimes.

Yemen's former British imperial base at Aden and former French base at Djibouti will become important permanent U.S. bases.

The White House hopes Palestinians will be cowed by Iraq's destruction, and forced to accept U.S.-Israeli plans to become a self-governing, but isolated, native reservation surrounded by Israeli forces.

The lines drawn in the Mideast by old European imperial powers are now to be redrawn by the world's newest imperial power, the United States. But as veteran soldiers know, even the best strategic plans become worthless once real fighting begins.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Eric can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].

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Muslims Didn't Bloody Those Borders First

Tuesday, December 10, 2002; Page A28

Charles Krauthammer should be congratulated for dismissing as absurd the question of whether Islam is inherently violent [op-ed, Dec. 6]. Unfortunately, he did not consider the history of Islam's "bloody borders." If they are bloody, it is because, over the past 200 years, they have been repeatedly violated by outsiders who sought to dominate Muslim people and appropriate their resources.

It was not Chechens who invaded and conquered Russia, nor did the Afghans, the Egyptians or the Pakistanis ever invade Britain. No Palestinians ever took over any Jewish villages in Russia, Poland or Germany. The Iranian secret police backed no military coups against Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the Egyptians did not conspire with the Colombians to reconquer the Panama Canal. No Arab corporations covet oil in Texas or Alaska; Arab forces do not maintain bases in Europe or North America; Arab aid has never supported military dictators in Spain, Peru or Cuba.

The notion that Muslim alienation is rooted in an obsession with recovering the glory of Islam's medieval golden age -- and is thus entirely "their" problem -- is ludicrous. The sorry history of modern Western intrusion into the Middle East is far more relevant to our current crisis, whatever Mr. Krauthammer and the rest of the neoconservative punditry would have us believe.

STEVE VINSON

New Paltz, N.Y.

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How did Iraq get its weapons? We sold them

By Neil Mackay and Felicity Arbuthnot

THE US and Britain sold Saddam Hussein the technology and materials Iraq needed to develop nuclear, chemical and biological wea pons of mass destruction.

Reports by the US Senate's committee on banking, housing and urban affairs -- which oversees American exports policy -- reveal that the US, under the successive administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Snr, sold materials including anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Nile fever germs and botulism to Iraq right up until March 1992, as well as germs similar to tuberculosis and pneumonia. Other bacteria sold included brucella melitensis, which damages major organs, and clostridium perfringens, which causes gas gangrene.

Classified US Defence Dep-artment documents also seen by the Sunday Herald show that Britain sold Iraq the drug pralidoxine, an antidote to nerve gas, in March 1992, after the end of the Gulf war. Pralidoxine can be reverse engineered to create nerve gas.

The Senate committee's rep orts on 'US Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual-Use Exports to Iraq', undertaken in 1992 in the wake of the Gulf war, give the date and destination of all US exports. The reports show, for example, that on May 2, 1986, two batches of bacillus anthracis -- the micro-organism that causes anthrax -- were shipped to the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education, along with two batches of the bacterium clostridium botulinum, the agent that causes deadly botulism poisoning.

One batch each of salmonella and E coli were shipped to the Iraqi State Company for Drug Industries on August 31, 1987. Other shipments went from the US to the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission on July 11, 1988; the Department of Biology at the University of Basrah in November 1989; the Department of Microbiology at Baghdad University in June 1985; the Ministry of Health in April 1985 and Officers' City, a military complex as well as germs similar to tuberculosis and pneumonia. Other bacteria sold included brucella melitensis, which damages major organs, and clostridium perfringens, which causes gas gangrene.

Classified US Defence Dep-artment documents also seen by the Sunday Herald show that Britain sold Iraq the drug pralidoxine, an antidote to nerve gas, in March 1992, after the end of the Gulf war. Pralidoxine can be reverse engineered to create nerve gas.

The Senate committee's rep orts on 'US Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual-Use Exports to Iraq', undertaken in 1992 in the wake of the Gulf war, give the date and destination of all US exports. The reports show, for example, that on May 2, 1986, two batches of bacillus anthracis -- the micro-organism that causes anthrax -- were shipped to the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education, along with two batches of the bacterium clostridium botulinum, the agent that causes deadly botulism poisoning.

One batch each of salmonella and E coli were shipped to the Iraqi State Company for Drug Industries on August 31, 1987. Other shipments went from the US to the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission on July 11, 1988; the Department of Biology at the University of Basrah in November 1989; the Department of Microbiology at Baghdad University in June 1985; the Ministry of Health in April 1985 and Officers' City, a military complex in Baghdad, in March and April 1986.

The shipments to Iraq went on even after Saddam Hussein ordered the gassing of the Kurdish town of Halabja, in which at least 5000 men, women and children died. The atrocity, which shocked the world, took place in March 1988, but a month later the components and materials of weapons of mass destruction were continuing to arrive in Baghdad from the US.

The Senate report also makes clear that: 'The United States provided the government of Iraq with 'dual use' licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-system programmes.'

This assistance, according to the report, included 'chemical warfare-agent precursors, chem ical warfare-agent production facility plans and technical drawings, chemical warfare filling equipment, biological warfare-related materials, missile fabrication equipment and missile system guidance equipment'.

Donald Riegle, then chairman of the committee, said: 'UN inspectors had identified many United States manufactured items that had been exported from the United States to Iraq under licences issued by the Department of Commerce, and [established] that these items were used to further Iraq's chemical and nuclear weapons development and its missile delivery system development programmes.'

Riegle added that, between January 1985 and August 1990, in Baghdad, in March and April 1986.

The shipments to Iraq went on even after Saddam Hussein ordered the gassing of the Kurdish town of Halabja, in which at least 5000 men, women and children died. The atrocity, which shocked the world, took place in March 1988, but a month later the components and materials of weapons of mass destruction were continuing to arrive in Baghdad from the US.

The Senate report also makes clear that: 'The United States provided the government of Iraq with 'dual use' licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-system programmes.'

This assistance, according to the report, included 'chemical warfare-agent precursors, chem ical warfare-agent production facility plans and technical drawings, chemical warfare filling equipment, biological warfare-related materials, missile fabrication equipment and missile system guidance equipment'.

Donald Riegle, then chairman of the committee, said: 'UN inspectors had identified many United States manufactured items that had been exported from the United States to Iraq under licences issued by the Department of Commerce, and [established] that these items were used to further Iraq's chemical and nuclear weapons development and its missile delivery system development programmes.'

Riegle added that, between January 1985 and August 1990, the 'executive branch of our government approved 771 different export licences for sale of dual-use technology to Iraq. I think that is a devastating record'.

It is thought the information contained in the Senate committee reports is likely to make up much of the 'evidence of proof' that Bush and Blair will reveal in the coming days to justify the US and Britain going to war with Iraq. It is unlikely, however, that the two leaders will admit it was the Western powers that armed Saddam with these weapons of mass destruction.

However, Bush and Blair will also have to prove that Saddam still has chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities. This looks like a difficult case to clinch in view of the fact that Scott Ritter, the UN's former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, says the United Nations des troyed most of Iraq's wea pons of mass destruction and doubts that Saddam could have rebuilt his stocks by now.

According to Ritter, between 90% and 95% of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were des troyed by the UN. He believes the remainder were probably used or destroyed during 'the ravages of the Gulf War'.

Ritter has described himself as a 'card-carrying Republican' who voted for George W Bush. Nevertheless, he has called the president a 'liar' over his claims that Saddam Hussein is a threat to America.

Ritter has also alleged that the manufacturethe 'executive branch of our government approved 771 different export licences for sale of dual-use technology to Iraq. I think that is a devastating record'.

It is thought the information contained in the Senate committee reports is likely to make up much of the 'evidence of proof' that Bush and Blair will reveal in the coming days to justify the US and Britain going to war with Iraq. It is unlikely, however, that the two leaders will admit it was the Western powers that armed Saddam with these weapons of mass destruction.

However, Bush and Blair will also have to prove that Saddam still has chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities. This looks like a difficult case to clinch in view of the fact that Scott Ritter, the UN's former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, says the United Nations des troyed most of Iraq's wea pons of mass destruction and doubts that Saddam could have rebuilt his stocks by now.

According to Ritter, between 90% and 95% of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were des troyed by the UN. He believes the remainder were probably used or destroyed during 'the ravages of the Gulf War'.

Ritter has described himself as a 'card-carrying Republican' who voted for George W Bush. Nevertheless, he has called the president a 'liar' over his claims that Saddam Hussein is a threat to America.

Ritter has also alleged that the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons emits certain gases, which would have been detected by satellite. 'We have seen none of this,' he insists. 'If Iraq was producing weapons today, we would have definitive proof.'

He also dismisses claims that Iraq may have a nuclear weapons capacity or be on the verge of attaining one, saying that gamma-particle atomic radiation from the radioactive materials in the warheads would also have been detected by western surveillance.

The UN's former co-ordinator in Iraq and former UN under-secretary general, Count Hans von Sponeck, has also told the Sunday Herald that he believes the West is lying about Iraq's weapons programme.

Von Sponeck visited the Al-Dora and Faluja factories near Baghdad in 1999 after they were 'comprehensively trashed' on the orders of UN inspectors, on the grounds that they were suspected of being chemical weapons plants. He returned to the site late in July this year, with a German TV crew, and said both plants were still wrecked.

'We filmed the evidence of the dishonesty of the claims that they were producing chemical and biological weapons,' von Sponeck has told the Sunday Herald. 'They are indeed in the same destroyed state which we witnessed in 1999. There was no trace of any resumed activity at all.'

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MER Comment:

What the Middle East region needs

By Ibrahim Saif

ACCORDING TO World Bank estimates, measured poverty rates in the Middle East region are lower than in other regions. However, 29 per cent of the region's population lives on less than $2 a day, while unemployment rate exceeds 14 per cent of the labour force.

What we need, according to Jeffrey Sachs, renowned international developmental economist at Colombia University, is a “weapon of mass salvation” that eradicates diseases, provides life-saving vaccines, improves medicine and health conditions for the poor, supports emergency food and farming technologies and improves education.

In a recent article published in the London-based Economist magazine, Sachs asked when was the last time US Vice President Dick Cheney was heard talking about development or the developing world or even “feign a word of concern for the world's poor”.

Under the circumstances, it is impossible to believe that the looming war against Iraq will make the Middle East a safer and more hospitable place.

Although the Middle East differs from other parts of the world in terms of what it needs to address its current ills, one thing is for sure: the last thing the region needs is another war that might destabilise the whole region.

The Americans do not have a proven history of finishing missions they initiate. A half-completed mission in Afghanistan, unfinished business in Somalia, leaving the country in utter chaos, and, foremost, a forestalled Middle East peace process. This is not to blame the US for all the mess. But undoubtedly a lack of vision has misguided the superpower's actions in several countries and regions. Iraq's future is no exception in this sense. Few could claim toental economist at Colombia University, is a “weapon of mass salvation” that eradicates diseases, provides life-saving vaccines, improves medicine and health conditions for the poor, supports emergency food and farming technologies and improves education.

In a recent article published in the London-based Economist magazine, Sachs asked when was the last time US Vice President Dick Cheney was heard talking about development or the developing world or even “feign a word of concern for the world's poor”.

Under the circumstances, it is impossible to believe that the looming war against Iraq will make the Middle East a safer and more hospitable place.

Although the Middle East differs from other parts of the world in terms of what it needs to address its current ills, one thing is for sure: the last thing the region needs is another war that might destabilise the whole region.

The Americans do not have a proven history of finishing missions they initiate. A half-completed mission in Afghanistan, unfinished business in Somalia, leaving the country in utter chaos, and, foremost, a forestalled Middle East peace process. This is not to blame the US for all the mess. But undoubtedly a lack of vision has misguided the superpower's actions in several countries and regions. Iraq's future is no exception in this sense. Few could claim to know what the Americans envisage if the current Iraqi regime is ousted.

While there are many good causes to mobilise resources and funds to benefit poor countries, the current US administration is prepared to spend $100 billion on an offensive against Iraq. It has, however, been unwilling to spend 0.2 per cent of that sum ($200 million) this year on the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, as Sachs remarked.

In the US, foreign aid has not been devoted to boosting worldwide networks of trade, finance and technology. Many poor countries remain in turmoil, caught within a vicious circle of poverty and political instability. Financial help could restore some of this illusive stability.

The issue of poverty should not be viewed only from a humanitarian perspective. Poverty contributes to instability in poor countries that could lose control and often become outposts of disorder for the rest of the world. Afghanistan and Somalia are clear examples.

According to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), US aid as a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) comes last compared to that of other developed countries. It totalled less than 0.2 per cent of its GDP last year, compared to nearly 0.4 per cent in France and nearly 1 per cent in Denmark. More importantly, most US assistance is allocated not to the least know what the Americans envisage if the current Iraqi regime is ousted.

While there are many good causes to mobilise resources and funds to benefit poor countries, the current US administration is prepared to spend $100 billion on an offensive against Iraq. It has, however, been unwilling to spend 0.2 per cent of that sum ($200 million) this year on the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, as Sachs remarked.

In the US, foreign aid has not been devoted to boosting worldwide networks of trade, finance and technology. Many poor countries remain in turmoil, caught within a vicious circle of poverty and political instability. Financial help could restore some of this illusive stability.

The issue of poverty should not be viewed only from a humanitarian perspective. Poverty contributes to instability in poor countries that could lose control and often become outposts of disorder for the rest of the world. Afghanistan and Somalia are clear examples.

According to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), US aid as a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) comes last compared to that of other developed countries. It totalled less than 0.2 per cent of its GDP last year, compared to nearly 0.4 per cent in France and nearly 1 per cent in Denmark. More importantly, most US assistance is allocated not to the least developed countries but chiefly to countries that are not classified as poor, such as Israel.

Sachs noticed that following America's lead, most of the large economies have allowed their foreign assistance programmes to shrink since the end of the cold war. This has made it more difficult for poor countries to cope with the new economic and political realities that have emerged after the cold war.

There is an unquestionable strong, direct association between poverty and the spread of extremism. The alleviation of poverty, the improvement of the quality of life and education and increased political participation help dissipate fundamentalist trends. The question, then, is what can America do about it? Indeed, addressing some of the most pressing issues and trying to defuse them would be effective in two ways. The first approach would improve the image of the US in the eyes of the world poor, making the US less likely to be viewed as a neo-colonial power. This, however, depends on whether the current administration is bothered about its image. Second, and most importantly, it should ease some of the human misery and give help to stabilise some of the more progressive regimes which are striving to achieve tangible results for their citizens.

Ironically, what the US is planning for the Middle East region is just the opposite. A potential war against Ira developed countries but chiefly to countries that are not classified as poor, such as Israel.

Sachs noticed that following America's lead, most of the large economies have allowed their foreign assistance programmes to shrink since the end of the cold war. This has made it more difficult for poor countries to cope with the new economic and political realities that have emerged after the cold war.

There is an unquestionable strong, direct association between poverty and the spread of extremism. The alleviation of poverty, the improvement of the quality of life and education and increased political participation help dissipate fundamentalist trends. The question, then, is what can America do about it? Indeed, addressing some of the most pressing issues and trying to defuse them would be effective in two ways. The first approach would improve the image of the US in the eyes of the world poor, making the US less likely to be viewed as a neo-colonial power. This, however, depends on whether the current administration is bothered about its image. Second, and most importantly, it should ease some of the human misery and give help to stabilise some of the more progressive regimes which are striving to achieve tangible results for their citizens.

Ironically, what the US is planning for the Middle East region is just the opposite. A potential war against Iraq will thwart many of the modest political and economic reform efforts currently under way and will hold back internal debate in these countries. Instead of focusing on how to proceed, countries in the region will be busy contemplating how to survive and weather the storm.

What we need is a new version of the Marshall plan that embraces human dignity and eradicates poverty. Thus, financial resources could be redirected and utilised more efficiently in the war against “terror”, as it has been branded.

If the war gets unleashed, billions of dollars would be spent and more will be needed to rebuild. No wonder that very few individuals and countries are seriously believing the American story that it wants to liberalise the Arab world, beginning with Iraq. We, the inhabitants of this region, know there are more efficient and cheaper life-saving mechanisms to achieve the same goal. So why not pursue these instead; unless, of course, there are other reasons behind this campaign for war.

Jordan Times

Thursday, December 5, 2002

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What Would Mohammed Do?

Laura McClure, Salon

December 4, 2002

Viewed on December 12, 2002

Two weeks ago, a Nigerian fashion writer's throwaway remark -- that Mohammed would have approved of the Miss World pageant and probably would have chosen a wife from among the contestants -- sparked riots that killed 220 people, left thousands homeless and earned the author, Isioma Daniel, a fatwa.

By and large, the West found this imbroglio baffling, and many immediately blamed Islam. But the religion, to those who know it, is anything but strait-laced. Islam produced Rumi, a 13th century Sufi mystic and poet who wrote verses such as, "When someone quotes the old poetic image about clouds gradually uncovering the moon, slowly loosen knot by knot the strings of your robe." Nowhere in the Koran does it say adulterers should be stoned. Nowhere does it say that women should be completely covered.

In the kaleidoscope that is modern Islam, there are a thousand images of women, says Geraldine Brooks, author of "Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women." Turn the prism one way and you get outspoken religious feminists in Iran and the mosque down the street. Turn it another, and you have Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia, where women are not even allowed to raise their voices, lest men find it alluring.

Wahhabist religious schools -- funded by Saudi Arabia -- have managed to disseminate extreme Islamist views into developing countries. In this way, Brooks maintains, the Saudis are much to blame for the growing restrictions placed on women in poorer countries around the world.

Nigeria, she says, is no exception. "In Nigeria you have a small group of Islamist extremists who want to impose Islamic states on parts of the country where there are significant Christian minorities who just won't take it," says Brooks. "And so, when you throw a match on that, all the bitterness about other things is being expresse Rumi, a 13th century Sufi mystic and poet who wrote verses such as, "When someone quotes the old poetic image about clouds gradually uncovering the moon, slowly loosen knot by knot the strings of your robe." Nowhere in the Koran does it say adulterers should be stoned. Nowhere does it say that women should be completely covered.

In the kaleidoscope that is modern Islam, there are a thousand images of women, says Geraldine Brooks, author of "Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women." Turn the prism one way and you get outspoken religious feminists in Iran and the mosque down the street. Turn it another, and you have Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia, where women are not even allowed to raise their voices, lest men find it alluring.

Wahhabist religious schools -- funded by Saudi Arabia -- have managed to disseminate extreme Islamist views into developing countries. In this way, Brooks maintains, the Saudis are much to blame for the growing restrictions placed on women in poorer countries around the world.

Nigeria, she says, is no exception. "In Nigeria you have a small group of Islamist extremists who want to impose Islamic states on parts of the country where there are significant Christian minorities who just won't take it," says Brooks. "And so, when you throw a match on that, all the bitterness about other things is being expressed, not just what somebody wrote in a newspaper."

In an interview with Salon, Brooks talks about the rise of what she calls "the haters of beauty" in Islam, and discusses the fragile coexistence in the religion of "pro-sexuality" and a fear of women gaining power.

So, how do you get from Rumi to people chanting "down with beauty"?

Well, I think the best place to start is with Mohammed himself and look at what his attitude was, as far as we can know it, toward women and sex. And it's pretty interesting to me. If you look at Mohammed's life, women were crucial figures in it. His first wife was older and a wealthy woman.

He worked for her, didn't he?

That's right. He used to take camel caravans for her merchant business.

And so she was the first convert to Islam. When he first saw the angel that called out to him, "Recite!" which is the first word of the Koran, he thought he'd lost his mind, and he came crawling to her, it says in the texts of Islam, and threw himself into her lap and said, "Cover me, cover me."

She was the one who convinced him that it was a true vision and that he was a prophet, and gave him the confidence and the means then to preach the word, so she's an incredibly important figure. While she lived she was the only wife he had.

Now, after she dies, he starts taking multiple wives and there's a d, not just what somebody wrote in a newspaper."

In an interview with Salon, Brooks talks about the rise of what she calls "the haters of beauty" in Islam, and discusses the fragile coexistence in the religion of "pro-sexuality" and a fear of women gaining power.

So, how do you get from Rumi to people chanting "down with beauty"?

Well, I think the best place to start is with Mohammed himself and look at what his attitude was, as far as we can know it, toward women and sex. And it's pretty interesting to me. If you look at Mohammed's life, women were crucial figures in it. His first wife was older and a wealthy woman.

He worked for her, didn't he?

That's right. He used to take camel caravans for her merchant business.

And so she was the first convert to Islam. When he first saw the angel that called out to him, "Recite!" which is the first word of the Koran, he thought he'd lost his mind, and he came crawling to her, it says in the texts of Islam, and threw himself into her lap and said, "Cover me, cover me."

She was the one who convinced him that it was a true vision and that he was a prophet, and gave him the confidence and the means then to preach the word, so she's an incredibly important figure. While she lived she was the only wife he had.

Now, after she dies, he starts taking multiple wives and there's a lot of revelation in the later part of the Koran about women and what women should be doing, and you have to read it very closely with the history to see how a lot of this came out of the conflicts that were occurring in the early Muslim community.

But the upshot of it was that Mohammed starting marrying women for reasons of political alliance with tribes that the Muslims had conquered. One thing he did was marry older widows as an example, because this was now a religion at war and there were a lot of widows and somebody had to provide for them. And so Mohammed, by taking widows into his household, was setting an example that he wanted the rest of the community to follow.

But that makes for a complicated household, as we all know, and it also makes for jealousies and bitterness and people tried to get at him through his wives. The upshot of it was that he had a revelation decreeing that his wives should be secluded and not seen by the rest of the community. So that was a big change, but that wasn't for the majority of women. Other women in the Muslim community went on going into battle and one of them saved his life in a battle after the male warriors had fled, and she was respected for that.

So, you have to look at the roots there, and what you see in 7th century Arabia compared to what the rest of the culture was doing is not bad. Women lot of revelation in the later part of the Koran about women and what women should be doing, and you have to read it very closely with the history to see how a lot of this came out of the conflicts that were occurring in the early Muslim community.

But the upshot of it was that Mohammed starting marrying women for reasons of political alliance with tribes that the Muslims had conquered. One thing he did was marry older widows as an example, because this was now a religion at war and there were a lot of widows and somebody had to provide for them. And so Mohammed, by taking widows into his household, was setting an example that he wanted the rest of the community to follow.

But that makes for a complicated household, as we all know, and it also makes for jealousies and bitterness and people tried to get at him through his wives. The upshot of it was that he had a revelation decreeing that his wives should be secluded and not seen by the rest of the community. So that was a big change, but that wasn't for the majority of women. Other women in the Muslim community went on going into battle and one of them saved his life in a battle after the male warriors had fled, and she was respected for that.

So, you have to look at the roots there, and what you see in 7th century Arabia compared to what the rest of the culture was doing is not bad. Women have a role and they're definitely given the rights and the responsibilities of the faith. But then after Mohammed's death, the caliph Omar, who is a well-known misogynist, and who told Mohammed that he's too soft on his wives, starts to make things much more difficult for women.

If you look in Christian teaching it's like what St. Paul does to women in the early Christian community in terms of lessening their status and taking away their rights and making them somehow "unclean." But actual Islam doesn't have the same kind of hang-ups about sex that Christianity does. Islam is very pro-sexuality. It says: Marry and enjoy your wives. Women are entitled to pleasure in sex.

Mohammed actually has a couple of sayings in the hadith -- which is the sayings of the prophet -- one of which I always liked, about foreplay, which is, "When you go to your wife, do not go to them as birds do, but be slow and delaying." And also there's the time he goes and tells off one of his friends because he's not sleeping with his wife and is practicing celibacy and [Mohammed] says, "That's not part of my way. If you want to follow my way, you have time for praying and time for fasting, but you also have time to make love to your wife."

So it's quite pro-sex, and that's the astonishing thing when you travel around some of the more repressive countries of the Middle Ehave a role and they're definitely given the rights and the responsibilities of the faith. But then after Mohammed's death, the caliph Omar, who is a well-known misogynist, and who told Mohammed that he's too soft on his wives, starts to make things much more difficult for women.

If you look in Christian teaching it's like what St. Paul does to women in the early Christian community in terms of lessening their status and taking away their rights and making them somehow "unclean." But actual Islam doesn't have the same kind of hang-ups about sex that Christianity does. Islam is very pro-sexuality. It says: Marry and enjoy your wives. Women are entitled to pleasure in sex.

Mohammed actually has a couple of sayings in the hadith -- which is the sayings of the prophet -- one of which I always liked, about foreplay, which is, "When you go to your wife, do not go to them as birds do, but be slow and delaying." And also there's the time he goes and tells off one of his friends because he's not sleeping with his wife and is practicing celibacy and [Mohammed] says, "That's not part of my way. If you want to follow my way, you have time for praying and time for fasting, but you also have time to make love to your wife."

So it's quite pro-sex, and that's the astonishing thing when you travel around some of the more repressive countries of the Middle East, because in private, within marriage, it's very licentious, it's very Victoria's Secret catalogs and very glamorous and women go to a lot of trouble to be beautiful for their husbands, but that's a very private thing and it mustn't be taken into the public sphere.

You write [in "Nine Parts of Desire"] that Islam is one of the few religions to include sex as one of the rewards of the afterlife.

Well, for men anyway. Although there's been some pretty interesting research on that passage of the Koran that says the word "virgin" is mistranslated and it should say "white raisin." Which is going to leave a lot of people very disappointed.

Oh, absolutely. So when did things start to change?

It starts to change when Islam moves out of 7th century Arabia, it starts to change with Omar, and then as the religion moves into other cultures that are repressive of women it almost invariably adopts the repressive customs.

Mesopotamia and the Persians were into the seclusion of elite women. If you were an aristocrat, you would never go out without being completely covered, if you went out at all. In fact, in Mesopotamia, if you were a slave you had to go uncovered, and if you were a slave who covered yourself you would be punished for doing that, because ast, because in private, within marriage, it's very licentious, it's very Victoria's Secret catalogs and very glamorous and women go to a lot of trouble to be beautiful for their husbands, but that's a very private thing and it mustn't be taken into the public sphere.

You write [in "Nine Parts of Desire"] that Islam is one of the few religions to include sex as one of the rewards of the afterlife.

Well, for men anyway. Although there's been some pretty interesting research on that passage of the Koran that says the word "virgin" is mistranslated and it should say "white raisin." Which is going to leave a lot of people very disappointed.

Oh, absolutely. So when did things start to change?

It starts to change when Islam moves out of 7th century Arabia, it starts to change with Omar, and then as the religion moves into other cultures that are repressive of women it almost invariably adopts the repressive customs.

Mesopotamia and the Persians were into the seclusion of elite women. If you were an aristocrat, you would never go out without being completely covered, if you went out at all. In fact, in Mesopotamia, if you were a slave you had to go uncovered, and if you were a slave who covered yourself you would be punished for doing that, because that was aping your betters. They had this notion that elite women [should be] secluded women, and that kind of meshed with the idea that seclusion had been ordained for the prophet's wives. And so it became the norm that Muslim women were supposed to be secluded to some extent if you could afford it in the household, or if you couldn't do that, then at least covered. So that's where that came from, rather than from within the faith itself.

And then, tragically, Islam arrived in Egypt -- in the 8th century, I think -- and the hideous custom of genital mutilation for women, which has come down the Nile from stone age Central Africa and become very much a part of Egyptian custom, then gets incorporated in Islamic custom. And it doesn't travel backward into the Arabian Peninsula countries, but as Islam travels forward into Southeast Asia, that custom goes with it, as if it's part of the teachings of Islam.

And the stoning of adulterers?

The Koran does not proclaim stonings. You're supposed to shut her up in a room alone, that's supposed to be the punishment. The stonings -- I'm not sure what the origin of that was. It was certainly in the old Hebrew tradition that you would stone adulterers, and Mohammed had a lot to do with the Jewish communities in Arabia, so it may have come into the Islamic practice that way.

But basically, in Islamithat was aping your betters. They had this notion that elite women [should be] secluded women, and that kind of meshed with the idea that seclusion had been ordained for the prophet's wives. And so it became the norm that Muslim women were supposed to be secluded to some extent if you could afford it in the household, or if you couldn't do that, then at least covered. So that's where that came from, rather than from within the faith itself.

And then, tragically, Islam arrived in Egypt -- in the 8th century, I think -- and the hideous custom of genital mutilation for women, which has come down the Nile from stone age Central Africa and become very much a part of Egyptian custom, then gets incorporated in Islamic custom. And it doesn't travel backward into the Arabian Peninsula countries, but as Islam travels forward into Southeast Asia, that custom goes with it, as if it's part of the teachings of Islam.

And the stoning of adulterers?

The Koran does not proclaim stonings. You're supposed to shut her up in a room alone, that's supposed to be the punishment. The stonings -- I'm not sure what the origin of that was. It was certainly in the old Hebrew tradition that you would stone adulterers, and Mohammed had a lot to do with the Jewish communities in Arabia, so it may have come into the Islamic practice that way.

But basically, in Islamic law -- the sexual part of Islamic law -- it's almost impossible to get a conviction if you're doing it the right way. You have to have four male witnesses to actual penetration, and you can imagine the number of times when that would be the case. And if you don't have four witnesses you're not even supposed to bring the charge, and you can be flogged for bringing a charge you can't prove. So, the fact that it happens at all is a distortion, because it's not supposed to.

Basically what progressive Islamic scholars will say is that the prohibition is there to keep social order, to show that it's important, but the fact that it's essentially not prosecutable under Islamic law is supposed to be a balance to this. And also there are so many outs -- it's not a death penalty matter if you're not married; it's only a death penalty matter if you have a legitimate way of satisfying your sexual needs and you don't take that way and you do this instead.

But these things aren't widely known, I think, even by people who support the Islamic scholars in some of the more undeveloped parts of the Muslim world.

It largely sounds like Islam was much more progressive and pro-women several centuries ago than now.

Well, it depends where you mean, because when you talk about Islam now you're talking about a billion people, living in every kind of circumstac law -- the sexual part of Islamic law -- it's almost impossible to get a conviction if you're doing it the right way. You have to have four male witnesses to actual penetration, and you can imagine the number of times when that would be the case. And if you don't have four witnesses you're not even supposed to bring the charge, and you can be flogged for bringing a charge you can't prove. So, the fact that it happens at all is a distortion, because it's not supposed to.

Basically what progressive Islamic scholars will say is that the prohibition is there to keep social order, to show that it's important, but the fact that it's essentially not prosecutable under Islamic law is supposed to be a balance to this. And also there are so many outs -- it's not a death penalty matter if you're not married; it's only a death penalty matter if you have a legitimate way of satisfying your sexual needs and you don't take that way and you do this instead.

But these things aren't widely known, I think, even by people who support the Islamic scholars in some of the more undeveloped parts of the Muslim world.

It largely sounds like Islam was much more progressive and pro-women several centuries ago than now.

Well, it depends where you mean, because when you talk about Islam now you're talking about a billion people, living in every kind of circumstance you can imagine. So if you talk about Islam in Malaysia, there are women police chiefs there, and in Indonesia the president is a woman, so where are you talking about when you say "Islam now"?

We tend to jump immediately to the Taliban, Saudi Arabia, etc., and not the mosque down the street. Because "Islam now," I can tell you, at the mosque near where I live has some pretty red-hot women's activists as key figures there. So it's not a monochrome picture at all.

Sure, but there are a lot of people out there who took one look at the riots in Nigeria, people being burned alive over a beauty pageant, and said, "This is a religion that hates women."

I know. It's easy to come to that conclusion. But I think we all have to look deeper these days and try to understand a bit more.

I think a place to start is with Islam in America and to get to know our own Muslim community a lot better than we do, because the interesting thing is that we don't usually see Islam in a democracy. We see Islam in all kinds of tyrannies and despotic countries and we think that that's the face of the faith.

In the United States, it's the first time there's been a significant Muslim population really feeling part of a democracy. I guess you could say in England, but because of the way English society is more closed to outsiders and immigrants, it's going nce you can imagine. So if you talk about Islam in Malaysia, there are women police chiefs there, and in Indonesia the president is a woman, so where are you talking about when you say "Islam now"?

We tend to jump immediately to the Taliban, Saudi Arabia, etc., and not the mosque down the street. Because "Islam now," I can tell you, at the mosque near where I live has some pretty red-hot women's activists as key figures there. So it's not a monochrome picture at all.

Sure, but there are a lot of people out there who took one look at the riots in Nigeria, people being burned alive over a beauty pageant, and said, "This is a religion that hates women."

I know. It's easy to come to that conclusion. But I think we all have to look deeper these days and try to understand a bit more.

I think a place to start is with Islam in America and to get to know our own Muslim community a lot better than we do, because the interesting thing is that we don't usually see Islam in a democracy. We see Islam in all kinds of tyrannies and despotic countries and we think that that's the face of the faith.

In the United States, it's the first time there's been a significant Muslim population really feeling part of a democracy. I guess you could say in England, but because of the way English society is more closed to outsiders and immigrants, it's going to take more generations there than here.

But if you go to an American mosque, in most cases you'll find an incredibly multicultural scene; you'll find people who have origins in all corners of the globe. And actually, nowadays a Muslim in America is more than twice as likely to be African-American as they are to be Arab in origin. So it's pretty interesting place.

Because people have come from all kinds of cultural traditions, they have to practice a religion that they can all agree on, and you find that these extremes are very quickly brushed away in the need to get back to the essence of the faith. There's an overemphasis, I think, on the fact that women have to be the responsible ones in terms of containing their behavior so that society doesn't disintegrate into this orgy of sexuality that the Saudi Arabians particularly fear.

Why do you think there's so much fear, especially there?

Well, that comes out of the Bedouin Arab notion that male honor is dependent on female behavior. This is something that's mixed up with Islam but it's not of Islam, it's from the desert culture. And the idea is that your honor depends on the women of your name -- your sisters, your mothers, your daughters -- not your wife, interestingly, she's her father's and brother's problem. So if there's a hint of a suggestion that they're misbehaving sexually, yto take more generations there than here.

But if you go to an American mosque, in most cases you'll find an incredibly multicultural scene; you'll find people who have origins in all corners of the globe. And actually, nowadays a Muslim in America is more than twice as likely to be African-American as they are to be Arab in origin. So it's pretty interesting place.

Because people have come from all kinds of cultural traditions, they have to practice a religion that they can all agree on, and you find that these extremes are very quickly brushed away in the need to get back to the essence of the faith. There's an overemphasis, I think, on the fact that women have to be the responsible ones in terms of containing their behavior so that society doesn't disintegrate into this orgy of sexuality that the Saudi Arabians particularly fear.

Why do you think there's so much fear, especially there?

Well, that comes out of the Bedouin Arab notion that male honor is dependent on female behavior. This is something that's mixed up with Islam but it's not of Islam, it's from the desert culture. And the idea is that your honor depends on the women of your name -- your sisters, your mothers, your daughters -- not your wife, interestingly, she's her father's and brother's problem. So if there's a hint of a suggestion that they're misbehaving sexually, you're cooked, man, and the only thing you can do about it is get rid of them. Kill them, to get your honor back. There's nothing else you can do.

Tell me about Wahhabism.

It's the most distorted view of Islam. It's really joyless. It's so austere that it denies any kind of human pleasure -- no music, no beauty. They really are the haters of beauty. So austere that when you bury somebody in Saudi Arabia you mustn't even mark the grave. So a graveyard in Saudi Arabia is just a fenced area of sand, with no markers whatsoever. And the austerity extends to men as well. It's total asceticism, really. Life as a complete restriction. And I don't think that any sensible reading of Islamic texts can bring you to that conclusion, because Mohammed was a really warm man and a passionate man who really loved his wives and made no bones about it. He was not some kind of person who preached that life should have no pleasure in it.

How did it get so distorted?

I guess Abdul Wahab must have been one of these charismatic preachers, like Jim Jones, who can lead people to act against their own interests and against their own rational thought. And then, of course, he had a lot of followers and they helped the first king of Saudi Arabia to the throne, and the quid pro quo for that was that the kingdom had to follow his teachings.

In these countries whou're cooked, man, and the only thing you can do about it is get rid of them. Kill them, to get your honor back. There's nothing else you can do.

Tell me about Wahhabism.

It's the most distorted view of Islam. It's really joyless. It's so austere that it denies any kind of human pleasure -- no music, no beauty. They really are the haters of beauty. So austere that when you bury somebody in Saudi Arabia you mustn't even mark the grave. So a graveyard in Saudi Arabia is just a fenced area of sand, with no markers whatsoever. And the austerity extends to men as well. It's total asceticism, really. Life as a complete restriction. And I don't think that any sensible reading of Islamic texts can bring you to that conclusion, because Mohammed was a really warm man and a passionate man who really loved his wives and made no bones about it. He was not some kind of person who preached that life should have no pleasure in it.

How did it get so distorted?

I guess Abdul Wahab must have been one of these charismatic preachers, like Jim Jones, who can lead people to act against their own interests and against their own rational thought. And then, of course, he had a lot of followers and they helped the first king of Saudi Arabia to the throne, and the quid pro quo for that was that the kingdom had to follow his teachings.

In these countries where you have stonings, these really extreme practices, why do you think that occurs? Why are women considered so threatening in those areas?

I don't know why in those areas and not other areas. I didn't go to Afghanistan under the Taliban so my only experience with this really is in Saudi Arabia. Iran, even though there are lot of restrictions on women, there weren't anywhere near as many as there were in Saudi Arabia. I really can't answer that question of why in one place and not another, except to look back at the cultural history and what was the situation for women in pre-Islamic times and try to draw some conclusions from that.

Do you think a situation like what happened in Nigeria is possibly a reaction to the Western sexualization of entertainment?

No. I mean, Africa is pretty sexual too -- we didn't invent this. No, I think Nigeria's own culture is pretty hot sexually and I think you have there a lot of intercommunal tensions. You have a place that's been incredibly misgoverned, that's had to put up with some unbelievably corrupt and cruel military regimes, and there's not a great sense of Nigeria -- Nigeria as a place, Nigeria as a nationality. It tends to be very much this tribal group and that tribal group, and Christians vs. Muslims, us vs. ere you have stonings, these really extreme practices, why do you think that occurs? Why are women considered so threatening in those areas?

I don't know why in those areas and not other areas. I didn't go to Afghanistan under the Taliban so my only experience with this really is in Saudi Arabia. Iran, even though there are lot of restrictions on women, there weren't anywhere near as many as there were in Saudi Arabia. I really can't answer that question of why in one place and not another, except to look back at the cultural history and what was the situation for women in pre-Islamic times and try to draw some conclusions from that.

Do you think a situation like what happened in Nigeria is possibly a reaction to the Western sexualization of entertainment?

No. I mean, Africa is pretty sexual too -- we didn't invent this. No, I think Nigeria's own culture is pretty hot sexually and I think you have there a lot of intercommunal tensions. You have a place that's been incredibly misgoverned, that's had to put up with some unbelievably corrupt and cruel military regimes, and there's not a great sense of Nigeria -- Nigeria as a place, Nigeria as a nationality. It tends to be very much this tribal group and that tribal group, and Christians vs. Muslims, us vs. them. And I think it's that lack of cohesion that makes any explosion likely to flare up a whole round of other intercommunal tensions.

By the way, did you find the remark [in the Nigerian newspaper] blasphemous?

That Mohammed would have married ... it's not for me to say what's blasphemous to a Muslim. I think it was probably pushing the argument too far; I haven't read the whole article. The fact is, Mohammed did appreciate female beauty; there's no doubt about that. Some of his wives were supposedly very remarkable-looking women. Whether he would have wanted to marry somebody who was displaying that beauty in public would probably be the tricky issue. Because the hadith of how he got a couple of his wives after the battle, when the Muslim army had proven victorious, he would go and throw his cloak over the women that he wanted to take for a wife, and that was the sign to all his troops that she was the prophet's. But, of course, he also, famously, sent home a woman who didn't want to be married to him, so he never, as far as we know, forced his attentions on anybody.

I think that at the bottom of it, the distinction is between the public world and the private world. And the huge difference between the West and orthodox Islam is that orthodox Islam says "private is private, and you in the West have lost your way. You don't know what's prithem. And I think it's that lack of cohesion that makes any explosion likely to flare up a whole round of other intercommunal tensions.

By the way, did you find the remark [in the Nigerian newspaper] blasphemous?

That Mohammed would have married ... it's not for me to say what's blasphemous to a Muslim. I think it was probably pushing the argument too far; I haven't read the whole article. The fact is, Mohammed did appreciate female beauty; there's no doubt about that. Some of his wives were supposedly very remarkable-looking women. Whether he would have wanted to marry somebody who was displaying that beauty in public would probably be the tricky issue. Because the hadith of how he got a couple of his wives after the battle, when the Muslim army had proven victorious, he would go and throw his cloak over the women that he wanted to take for a wife, and that was the sign to all his troops that she was the prophet's. But, of course, he also, famously, sent home a woman who didn't want to be married to him, so he never, as far as we know, forced his attentions on anybody.

I think that at the bottom of it, the distinction is between the public world and the private world. And the huge difference between the West and orthodox Islam is that orthodox Islam says "private is private, and you in the West have lost your way. You don't know what's private anymore, you use your daughters' bodies to sell cars, and this is not a good thing." And a lot of feminists would agree with them.

There are so many contradictions between what the Koran says and these places where you get a completely different interpretation. It's baffling.

I know. I think that's what happens when a religion falls into the hands of misguided teachers. The thing that makes me optimistic is in Iran, after the revolution, women who would never have been able to have a public life under the Shah because their families would have seen it as a godless system, were allowed to get educated. In fact it was required, and literacy shot up into the high 90 percent for women.

Now you see the younger generation coming up -- they are very self-confident, and they can't be challenged Islamically, they know their stuff. They've read the Koran, they've won prizes for reciting it, and so you have these women who are respected teachers who say, "This isn't what it says, and here's what it does say, and this is an Islamic state so you have to live by what it says."

They've managed to actually change a lot just through doing that, and nobody can really argue with it because it's not some secular politician trying to pass a law. They don't have to pass a law, because it's written in the Koran. So they've managed to achieve a lot in Ivate anymore, you use your daughters' bodies to sell cars, and this is not a good thing." And a lot of feminists would agree with them.

There are so many contradictions between what the Koran says and these places where you get a completely different interpretation. It's baffling.

I know. I think that's what happens when a religion falls into the hands of misguided teachers. The thing that makes me optimistic is in Iran, after the revolution, women who would never have been able to have a public life under the Shah because their families would have seen it as a godless system, were allowed to get educated. In fact it was required, and literacy shot up into the high 90 percent for women.

Now you see the younger generation coming up -- they are very self-confident, and they can't be challenged Islamically, they know their stuff. They've read the Koran, they've won prizes for reciting it, and so you have these women who are respected teachers who say, "This isn't what it says, and here's what it does say, and this is an Islamic state so you have to live by what it says."

They've managed to actually change a lot just through doing that, and nobody can really argue with it because it's not some secular politician trying to pass a law. They don't have to pass a law, because it's written in the Koran. So they've managed to achieve a lot in Iran, in terms of getting a better deal for women legally. And I think that women's literacy has been the key to that. And also the fact that in Iran women do have a public voice. It doesn't exclude them from the public sphere.

It seems like there's more extremism now than there was 50 years ago. Is that an accurate assessment?

Yes, and I think that the oil wells have fed a lot of that, because the Saudis have funded so many religious schools in the poor world that preach this kind of really diabolical brand of Wahhabite Islam. I think they have to take a huge share of responsibility for the growth of extremism. Not all of it, certainly, that would be ridiculous to say, but they've certainly fanned the flames. And the fact that most Islamic countries are unfortunately so badly governed and so repressively governed.

You write in "Nine Parts of Desire" that in poor countries, places where the men feel they're not in control, that the first thing they do is start to control the women.

Yes. If you have an Islamic revolution, think about it. Getting rid of bank interests, that's really going to screw up the economy, that's hard to do. It's Islamically correct to do it, to get rid of interests on loans, but much easier to order women to wear a head scarf, and then everybody looks at a picture of your country and it looks very Islamic. That'sran, in terms of getting a better deal for women legally. And I think that women's literacy has been the key to that. And also the fact that in Iran women do have a public voice. It doesn't exclude them from the public sphere.

It seems like there's more extremism now than there was 50 years ago. Is that an accurate assessment?

Yes, and I think that the oil wells have fed a lot of that, because the Saudis have funded so many religious schools in the poor world that preach this kind of really diabolical brand of Wahhabite Islam. I think they have to take a huge share of responsibility for the growth of extremism. Not all of it, certainly, that would be ridiculous to say, but they've certainly fanned the flames. And the fact that most Islamic countries are unfortunately so badly governed and so repressively governed.

You write in "Nine Parts of Desire" that in poor countries, places where the men feel they're not in control, that the first thing they do is start to control the women.

Yes. If you have an Islamic revolution, think about it. Getting rid of bank interests, that's really going to screw up the economy, that's hard to do. It's Islamically correct to do it, to get rid of interests on loans, but much easier to order women to wear a head scarf, and then everybody looks at a picture of your country and it looks very Islamic. That's an easy thing to do, so that's why getting the women veiled is one of the first tactics of the Islamists.

How do these issues get resolved?

Well, I don't think we've seen any of them get resolved. But I'm hoping that the American Muslim community will have a louder voice in the Middle Eastern region. For example, there's a really good magazine that comes out of Seattle called Sisters, and that gets translated into Arabic and sent back to the Middle East and so forth and it's teaching a much more tolerant form of Islam. It's actually pointing out to women what their rights are in Islamic teaching, and it's very well done and very scholarly and accessible and all those good things. So I think that as the American Muslim community grows in confidence that will be one impetus for change.

I think there is a lot of potential in the kind of Islamic feminism that the Iranian women pioneered -- in terms of quite religious women trying to do reformation work on the religion as it's understood in their country, to the betterment of women. Apart from that it's pretty hard to be optimistic these days. It's going to be a long grind.

What I don't think works very well is Western feminists wagging their finger in the faces of Arab monarchs. I just don't think that's effective. I think it has to come from within Islam, and I think that the best thing an easy thing to do, so that's why getting the women veiled is one of the first tactics of the Islamists.

How do these issues get resolved?

Well, I don't think we've seen any of them get resolved. But I'm hoping that the American Muslim community will have a louder voice in the Middle Eastern region. For example, there's a really good magazine that comes out of Seattle called Sisters, and that gets translated into Arabic and sent back to the Middle East and so forth and it's teaching a much more tolerant form of Islam. It's actually pointing out to women what their rights are in Islamic teaching, and it's very well done and very scholarly and accessible and all those good things. So I think that as the American Muslim community grows in confidence that will be one impetus for change.

I think there is a lot of potential in the kind of Islamic feminism that the Iranian women pioneered -- in terms of quite religious women trying to do reformation work on the religion as it's understood in their country, to the betterment of women. Apart from that it's pretty hard to be optimistic these days. It's going to be a long grind.

What I don't think works very well is Western feminists wagging their finger in the faces of Arab monarchs. I just don't think that's effective. I think it has to come from within Islam, and I think that the best thing Western feminists can do is to support Muslim women and listen to them. And if they say, "It's important to us that our daughters have the right to wear a head scarf to school without being teased about it," then try to figure out a way of having a bit of consciousness raising for our kids in school so that they don't tease girls about that, and then try and see the benefit for ourselves of having a range of approaches to teenage sexuality available for our own daughters.

A lot of us don't have a problem that our daughters might be in school with somebody who's wearing a bare midriff and a bellybutton ring and has 10 boyfriends, but we do have a problem that she's in a class with a girl who wears a head scarf and doesn't date. Now that's pretty cockeyed to me, because it seems you would want her to be able to make her way with a whole lot of options in front of her.

Laura McClure is a Salon editorial fellow.

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U.S. Hopes to Check Computers Globally

System Would Be Used to Hunt Terrorists

By Robert O'Harrow Jr.

Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, November 12, 2002; Page A04

A new Pentagon research office has started designing a global computer-surveillance system to give U.S. counterterrorism officials access to personal information in government and commercial databases around the world.

The Information Awareness Office, run by former national security adviser John M. Poindexter, aims to develop new technologies to sift through "ultra-large" data warehouses and networked computers in search of threatening patterns among everyday transactions, such as credit card purchases and travel reservations, according to interviews and documents.

Authorities already have access to a wealth of information about individual terrorists, but they typically have to obtain court approval in the United States or make laborious diplomatic and intelligence efforts overseas. The system proposed by Poindexter and funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at about $200 million a year, would be able to sweep up and analyze data in a much more systematic way. It would provide a more detailed look at data than the super-secret National Security Agency now has, the former Navy admiral said.

"How are we going to find terrorists and preempt them, except by following their trail," said Poindexter, who brought the idea to the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and now is beginning to award contracts to high-technology vendors.

"The problem is much more complex, I believe, than we've faced before," he said. "It's how do we harness with technology the street smarts of people on the ground, on a global scale."

Although formidable foreign policy and privacy hurdles remain before any prototype becomes operational, the initiative shows how far the government has come in its willingness to use ins and networked computers in search of threatening patterns among everyday transactions, such as credit card purchases and travel reservations, according to interviews and documents.

Authorities already have access to a wealth of information about individual terrorists, but they typically have to obtain court approval in the United States or make laborious diplomatic and intelligence efforts overseas. The system proposed by Poindexter and funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at about $200 million a year, would be able to sweep up and analyze data in a much more systematic way. It would provide a more detailed look at data than the super-secret National Security Agency now has, the former Navy admiral said.

"How are we going to find terrorists and preempt them, except by following their trail," said Poindexter, who brought the idea to the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and now is beginning to award contracts to high-technology vendors.

"The problem is much more complex, I believe, than we've faced before," he said. "It's how do we harness with technology the street smarts of people on the ground, on a global scale."

Although formidable foreign policy and privacy hurdles remain before any prototype becomes operational, the initiative shows how far the government has come in its willingness to use information technology and expanded surveillance authorities in the war on terrorism.

Poindexter said it will take years to realize his vision, but the office has already begun providing some technology to government agencies. For example, Poindexter recently agreed to help the FBI build its data-warehousing system. He's also spoken to the Transportation Security Administration about aiding its development of a massive passenger-profiling system.

In his first interview since he started the "information awareness" program, Poindexter, who figured prominently in the Iran-contra scandal more than a decade ago, said the systems under development would, among other things, help analysts search randomly for indications of travel to risky areas, suspicious e-mails, odd fund transfers and improbable medical activity, such as the treatments of anthrax sores. Much of the data would be collected through computer "appliances" -- some mixture of hardware and software -- that would, with permission of governments and businesses, enable intelligence agencies to routinely extract information.

Some specialists question whether the technology Poindexter envisions is even feasible, given the immense amount of data it would handle. Others question whether it is diplomatically possible, given the sensitivities about privacy around the world. But many agree, if implementeformation technology and expanded surveillance authorities in the war on terrorism.

Poindexter said it will take years to realize his vision, but the office has already begun providing some technology to government agencies. For example, Poindexter recently agreed to help the FBI build its data-warehousing system. He's also spoken to the Transportation Security Administration about aiding its development of a massive passenger-profiling system.

In his first interview since he started the "information awareness" program, Poindexter, who figured prominently in the Iran-contra scandal more than a decade ago, said the systems under development would, among other things, help analysts search randomly for indications of travel to risky areas, suspicious e-mails, odd fund transfers and improbable medical activity, such as the treatments of anthrax sores. Much of the data would be collected through computer "appliances" -- some mixture of hardware and software -- that would, with permission of governments and businesses, enable intelligence agencies to routinely extract information.

Some specialists question whether the technology Poindexter envisions is even feasible, given the immense amount of data it would handle. Others question whether it is diplomatically possible, given the sensitivities about privacy around the world. But many agree, if implemented as planned, it probably would be the largest data-surveillance system ever built.

Paul Werbos, a computing and artificial-intelligence specialist at the National Science Foundation, doubted whether such "appliances" can be calibrated to adequately filter out details about innocent people that should not be in the hands of the government. "By definition, they're going to send highly sensitive, private personal data," he said. "How many innocent people are going to get falsely pinged? How many terrorists are going to slip through?"

Former senator Gary Hart (D-Colo.), a member of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, said there's no question about the need to use data more effectively. But he criticized the scope of Poindexter's program, saying it is "total overkill of intelligence" and a potentially "huge waste of money."

"There's an Orwellian concept if I've ever heard one," Hart said when told about the program.

Poindexter said any operational system would include safeguards to govern the collection of information. He said rules built into the software would identify users, create an audit trail and govern the information that is available. But he added that his mission is to develop the technology, not the policy. It would be up to Congress and policymakers to debate the issue and establish the limits that would make the system politically acceptable.

"We can develop the best technology in the world and unless there is public acceptance and understanding of the necessity, it will never be implemented," he said. "We're just as concerned as the next person with protecting privacy."

Getting the Defense Department job is something of a comeback for Poindexter. The Reagan administration national security adviser was convicted in 1990 of five felony counts of lying to Congress, destroying official documents and obstructing congressional inquiries into the Iran-contra affair, which involved the secret sale of arms to Iran in the mid-1980s and diversion of profits to help the contra rebels in Nicaragua.

Poindexter, a retired Navy rear admiral, was the highest-ranking Regan administration official found guilty in the scandal. He was sentenced to six months in jail by a federal judge who called him "the decision-making head" of a scheme to deceive Congress. The U.S. Court of Appeals overturned that conviction in 1991, saying Poindexter's rights had been violated through the use of testimony he had given to Congress after being granted immunity.

In recent years, he has worked as a DARPA contractor at Syntek Technologies Inc., an Arlington consulting firm that helped develop technology to search through large amounts of data. Poindexter now has a corner office at a DARPA facility in Arlington. He still wears cuff links with the White House seal and a large ring from the Naval Academy, where he graduated at the top of his class in 1958.

As Poindexter views the plan, counterterrorism officials will use "transformational" technology to sift through almost unimaginably large amounts of data, something Poindexter calls "noise," to find a discernable "signal" indicating terrorist activity or planning. In addition to gathering data, the tools he is trying to develop would give analysts a way to visually represent what that information means. The system also would include the technology to identify people at a distance, based on known details about their faces and gaits.

He cited the recent sniper case as an example of something that would have benefited from such technology. The suspects' car, a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice, was repeatedly seen by police near the shooting scenes. Had investigators been able to know that, Poindexter said, they might have detained the suspects sooner.

The office already has several substantial contracts in the works with technology vendors. They include Hicks & Associates Inc., a national security consultant in McLean; Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., a management and technology consultant in McLean; and Ratheon Corp., a ted as planned, it probably would be the largest data-surveillance system ever built.

Paul Werbos, a computing and artificial-intelligence specialist at the National Science Foundation, doubted whether such "appliances" can be calibrated to adequately filter out details about innocent people that should not be in the hands of the government. "By definition, they're going to send highly sensitive, private personal data," he said. "How many innocent people are going to get falsely pinged? How many terrorists are going to slip through?"

Former senator Gary Hart (D-Colo.), a member of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, said there's no question about the need to use data more effectively. But he criticized the scope of Poindexter's program, saying it is "total overkill of intelligence" and a potentially "huge waste of money."

"There's an Orwellian concept if I've ever heard one," Hart said when told about the program.

Poindexter said any operational system would include safeguards to govern the collection of information. He said rules built into the software would identify users, create an audit trail and govern the information that is available. But he added that his mission is to develop the technology, not the policy. It would be up to Congress and policymakers to debate the issue and establish the limits that would make the system politically acceptable.

"We can develop the best technology in the world and unless there is public acceptance and understanding of the necessity, it will never be implemented," he said. "We're just as concerned as the next person with protecting privacy."

Getting the Defense Department job is something of a comeback for Poindexter. The Reagan administration national security adviser was convicted in 1990 of five felony counts of lying to Congress, destroying official documents and obstructing congressional inquiries into the Iran-contra affair, which involved the secret sale of arms to Iran in the mid-1980s and diversion of profits to help the contra rebels in Nicaragua.

Poindexter, a retired Navy rear admiral, was the highest-ranking Regan administration official found guilty in the scandal. He was sentenced to six months in jail by a federal judge who called him "the decision-making head" of a scheme to deceive Congress. The U.S. Court of Appeals overturned that conviction in 1991, saying Poindexter's rights had been violated through the use of testimony he had given to Congress after being granted immunity.

In recent years, he has worked as a DARPA contractor at Syntek Technologies Inc., an Arlington consulting firm that helped develop technology to search through large amounts of data. Poindexter now has a corner office at a DARPA facility in Arlington. He still wears cuff links with the White House seal and a large ring from the Naval Academy, where he graduated at the top of his class in 1958.

As Poindexter views the plan, counterterrorism officials will use "transformational" technology to sift through almost unimaginably large amounts of data, something Poindexter calls "noise," to find a discernable "signal" indicating terrorist activity or planning. In addition to gathering data, the tools he is trying to develop would give analysts a way to visually represent what that information means. The system also would include the technology to identify people at a distance, based on known details about their faces and gaits.

He cited the recent sniper case as an example of something that would have benefited from such technology. The suspects' car, a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice, was repeatedly seen by police near the shooting scenes. Had investigators been able to know that, Poindexter said, they might have detained the suspects sooner.

The office already has several substantial contracts in the works with technology vendors. They include Hicks & Associates Inc., a national security consultant in McLean; Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., a management and technology consultant in McLean; and Ratheon Corp., a technology company that will provide search and data-mining tools. "Poindexter made the argument to the right players, so they asked him back into the government," said Mike McConnell, a vice president at Booz Allen and former director of the NSA.

The office already has an emblem that features a variation of the great seal of the United States: An eye looms over a pyramid and appears to scan the world. The motto reads: Scientia Est Potentia, or "knowledge is power."

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Originally posted by sassa

MER Comment:

''Blowing the U.N. a goodbye kiss''

Printed on Monday, November 11, 2002

By Paul Harris

The General Assembly frequently expresses its feelings about world situations by voting on resolutions, which are meant to convey the organization's displeasure with some state's activities, but most such resolutions are ignored. Most notable is a multitude of resolutions citing or condemning Israel, which have never so much as raised an eyebrow in Tel Aviv, let alone caused Israel to alter its activities or policies.

Paul Harris encourages your comments: pharrisYellowTimes.org

http://www.yellowtimes.com/article.php?sid=852

Paul Harris can kiss my ass, my comment goes right here ;]

It is pretty understandable that an eyebrow would not be raised in Tel Aviv, as the capital of Israel is Jerusalem. Ass.

The General Assembly issues non-binding resolutions, they wouldn't raise an eyebrow anywhere.....they're just biased opinions of a United Nations in terrible need of reform. As the general of peacekeeping at the United Nations told me two weeks ago..."The United Nations has outlived its purpose, and must conform to a changing world"

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Originally posted by mrmatas2277

:zzz: :zzz: ....its amazing how people quote Iraq and their "puppet" govt'...especially when that country are "historically" pathological liars...but hey, whatever makes ur day fly by faster....:rolleyes:

well this is the same "puppet" govt' that the us gave weapons to in the 1980's, and we didn't see them as "pathological liars", especially since we knew what the weapons were going to be used for. that is why the us was happy that the iraqis didn't reveal what companies they were doing business with, when they released their report.

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Originally posted by sababa

Paul Harris can kiss my ass, my comment goes right here ;]

It is pretty understandable that an eyebrow would not be raised in Tel Aviv, as the capital of Israel is Jerusalem. Ass.

The General Assembly issues non-binding resolutions, they wouldn't raise an eyebrow anywhere.....they're just biased opinions of a United Nations in terrible need of reform. As the general of peacekeeping at the United Nations told me two weeks ago..."The United Nations has outlived its purpose, and must conform to a changing world"

No...shit......

ma she ata kotev ze lo davar hadash...:rolleyes:

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