The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Issue no. 731 — July 19 - August 2, 2004

Good jobs
– where are they?

Jul 19, 2004

Cheney, speaking for the Bush campaign in Michigan, touted the administration's economic plan. When asked about jobs, Cheney admitted that the lack of jobs was still a problem – BUT, he said, stick to the game plan, the game plan being tax cuts on top of tax cuts.

The Bush tax cuts have put more money in our hands, which sooner or later must create jobs – or so said Cheney.

More money in OUR hands? Not in this universe, this year – or any year! Whatever small rebates might have come our way from federal income taxes, they were more than eaten up by increases in the FICA and Medicare tax – not to mention the range of state and local taxes and fees that were increased to make up for what the federal government cut.

Of course money has been put in people's hands – but not in our hands. It was slid right into the pockets of the wealthy, and right into the coffers of the biggest corporations in the country.

So don't tell that lie.

And that's not Cheney's biggest lie. It's now almost three years since the last recession ended, but there's no sign that good jobs will soon be plentiful. Profits are booming – that's true – but the job situation is getting worse.

For one simple reason. Extra money in the hands of big corporations just encourages them to speculate, to buy up competing companies and close them down. It encourages them to search out lower-wage areas – in this country and elsewhere – in which to build new factories so they can close older ones. It has never led them to create new good-paying jobs.

This hasn't stopped John Kerry from unveiling HIS tax cut plan as a job-creation plan. He would reduce the overall tax rate for all corporations, including the very biggest. And he would include a "tax holiday" for some smaller corporations.

We need jobs, good paying jobs, while the two parties prepare to give more gifts to the corporations – and thus to the wealthy who own and control them.

For thirty years, the gap between the wealthiest people in this country – the billionaires and millionaires – and the working people of this country has continued to grow. This is nothing but another way of saying that we have watched jobs go out the window and wages be pushed down while the richest people in the society amassed still more riches – stolen from our labor.

Neither of the candidates has proposed or done anything that would change that fact.

What would it take to provide decent-paying jobs for everyone who wants to work?

For starters, make it illegal for any company that's producing profit to replace workers or cut out jobs. Make it illegal for corporations to cut jobs while their workplace puts out more work than before. Prohibit companies from closing a plant if they open up another one paying lower wages. Make it illegal for a company to keep a worker in a temporary status permanently. Prevent companies from classifying workers who put in 35 hours a week as "part-timers."

Why not? We're owed. Working people have invested our lives – as did our parents and their parents – in these companies and in this country. Our labor created the wealth. Let us benefit from it.

Pages 2-3

The indictment of Enron's "Kenny boy" Lay

Jul 19, 2004

On July 8, federal prosecutors indicted Kenneth Lay, the former chairman and chief executive of Enron. Lay was finally shown on television in handcuffs, doing the perp walk.

The timing of the indictment, right before the election, was hardly a coincidence. Obviously, Bush is trying to show how "even-handed" and "fair" he is about cracking down on corporate crime. After all, who was closer to Bush than Lay, or, as Bush affectionately called him in the not so distant past, "Kenny Boy."

The indictment was also timed to ensure that the trial can't be held until well and safely after the November election and therefore not be a constant reminder of the role Bush played in the rise of Enron and other rip-offs.

Up until Enron crashed and burned three years ago, Lay wielded enormous power in several Bush administrations: under Bush the father, the younger Bush as governor of Texas and today in the White House. Lay was one of the main architects of the deregulation of energy markets, gas pipeline, electricity, energy trading, etc. He also put his own people in key Bush administration posts, including the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and George W. Bush's first secretary of the army, who was a former Enron executive.

Of course, the indictment itself is very telling. Lay is charged with lying to stockholders and banks in the months and weeks before Enron went bankrupt. But Lay has not been charged with Enron's business practices, that is, all the ways that Enron ripped off the public and its workforce, especially how Lay's Enron and other big companies profited mightily from deregulation and privatization of energy and other services in this country and all over the world, by buying up, for example, water systems and electricity power companies for a song and then boosting the rates sky high to consumers.

Most famously is the case of how Enron, other "trading" companies, banks and utility companies made billions out of the California electricity crisis of 2000-2001, in effect, holding the entire state hostage by using blackouts and brownouts to push through enormous rate increases – the profits from which these companies then pocketed. For these companies, it was like found money. They didn't even have to invest or produce anything to get it.

But have these companies, among which Enron was just one, been forced to give any of this money back? No, they haven't even been forced to give up future profits that have been built into the energy deals that were made during the electric crisis. As a result, the people of California are still paying the same outrageously high electric bills, as they are expected to pay for decades to come.

Obviously, the other capitalists do not want this can of worms to be opened up in Lay's trial or any other, especially since the California crisis was not an isolated case. There are plenty of other "deregulation," "privatization" and "energy crisis" schemes, that is, other rip-offs of the public. Just look at how the big oil companies got together to boost energy prices in the last year.

In fact, the Lay indictment is just a whitewash, not just for the Bush administration, but the rest of the capitalist class that it serves.

Shop 'til you drop...if you're rich

Jul 19, 2004

Retail sales for June showed that luxury retailers like Neiman Marcus and Saks reported higher than expected sales for the month. At the same time, stores such as Wal-mart and Target had lower sales than expected for June, even after these discount companies had already lowered their June sales estimates!

Big surprise. The rich, with all their tax breaks and stock market speculation, can shop 'til they drop. Ordinary people get higher gas bills, higher prescription bills and lower paychecks – we're cutting corners somewhere.

Shopping at Wal-Mart is easier said than done for ordinary families these days. And that's sure a testimony to the state of this economy.

John Edwards joins the club

Jul 19, 2004

John Edwards, tapped by Democrat John Kerry as his vice-president, has joined three other multi-millionaires at the top of the Democratic and Republican tickets. Republicans Bush and Cheney have family wealth rooted in the oil and military contractor industries. Democrat Kerry, from a wealthy family himself, married into even greater wealth – his wife derives her billions from the Heinz family, one of just a few that dominate the prepared food industry.

Edwards got rich by taking a healthy slice of the 150 million dollars worth of settlements he won as a trial lawyer in a series of civil suits in the 1990s. After joining the Senate, he occupied himself wheeling and dealing in the stock and bond markets. And talk about insider information: he started making a lot of money buying and selling stock in military contractors just as preparations for the Iraq war began. Lockheed Martin, United Technologies, General Electric, British Petroleum, Cardinal Health Inc., General Dynamics – companies that profited from Iraq war contracts – all were part of Edwards' portfolio.

Of course, what's most important is not Edwards' or the other candidates great personal wealth: it's the fact that these four wealthy men speak for the rest of their class.

Negative results?
Just ignore them!

Jul 19, 2004

The New York attorney general filed a lawsuit against the drug company GlaxoSmithKline for suppressing results of a drug trial. The study showed that an antidepressant put out by GlaxoSmith-Kline – Paxil – was no more effective than a dummy pill in treating depressed young people. Other studies have indicated that Paxil and other anti-depressants have led to an increase in suicides. This brought to the surface a longstanding practice in the so-called scientific medical community to publish only the results of drug trials that show their products are effective. Many scientific institutions that conduct studies for the drug companies agree to suppress negative results that show the products to be ineffective or even very unsafe.

How absurd is it that in the twenty-first century, in a supposedly scientific society, scientists do not publish negative findings? Scientists can gain more knowledge from negative results than from positive ones. They help scientists understand what roads NOT to go down and what processes can be ruled out. But, of course, negative results are not good for profits, so capitalists just throw them out. They throw out many people as the result – the people who die from taking a medication that harms them or die because they got one which did nothing to relieve their maladies.

Steady increase of hours worked

Jul 19, 2004

A new study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) confirms that on average, people in the U.S. are putting in 20% more hours of work than they did in 1970. It also shows that in the same period, the number of hours worked in all the other industrialized countries, except for Canada, decreased. In Japan, for example, annual work hours declined 17% and in France they declined by 24%.

All those extra hours that workers in the U.S. are putting in are an important indication of how much our standard of living is in decline. This is in line with the steady erosion of our benefits and wages, which in turn pressures workers to put in more hours, to retire later or never, to push more family workers into the work force – just to make ends meet.

In other industrialized countries, workers have won at least a few more minimal social protections that are even written into the law, including several weeks of vacation and many more legal holidays, as well as health benefits and retirement benefits.

Of course, the ability to grant these benefits has nothing to do with the wealth of the society. After all, the U.S. is by far the wealthiest country in the world, and over the last 30 years the wealth workers have produced has increased tremendously.

But the wealth has been stolen to such an extent that working people not only aren't progressing any more – we are going backwards. This is one of the consequences of the fact that the working class in this country has carried out few big fights for nearly three decades, and no widespread mobilization across the whole working class. This lack of mobilization has given the capitalist class a freer hand to take, take, take.

The time for the working class in this country to mobilize and carry out big struggles is more than past due.

Charter schools:
Turning a profit, at the kids' expense

Jul 19, 2004

There is a new push to set up charter schools in the city of Detroit. People may have thought the effort was dead after a bill to allow more charter schools to be built in Michigan appeared to have been dropped last fall – or so Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and many legislators made it seem.

Since that time, multimillionaire Robert Thompson offered 200 million dollars to open more charter schools in Detroit. Since that offer was refused, politicians and the media have used the lost donation to make propaganda for charter schools.

It's easy to understand why some parents might be attracted to the idea of charter schools – the public schools do not provide a quality education, at least not in working class areas. But many of the parents who moved their kids into charter schools, thinking they will be better, later found out they had only jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.

Charter schools were set up not as a way to provide a quality education, but to steal profits for the company or institution that sets them up – including universities who set up charter schools to funnel public school money into their endowments. The money to fund charter schools comes from the public school system that is forced to authorize them. Even when a "benefactor" like Thompson gives money to build a school, the money to run the schools comes out of Detroit public school funding.

But the public school system has no oversight of the charter schools. They are not held to the same standards as the public schools. They do not make public standardized test scores, like those of the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) test. At the beginning, some of them did, but stopped when the test results showed their scores were as bad or worse than those from the public schools. This is true not just in Michigan but wherever such schools have been set up.

In fact, schools that have been run by private companies, like those run by Edison Schools, Inc., have been shown to have performed worse in most cases than public schools. Many of these schools do not provide an education that allows their students to go to junior college or technical schools, not to mention the university.

The drive to create more charter schools in Michigan is part of a larger national movement that has existed for some time now. The national effort to create charter schools gained steam in 1994 when Congress passed a bill encouraging states to create charter schools. In a number of places, religious groups rushed to set up charter schools – as a way to get public school funding for their religion. But the real push has come from Wall Street, which wants to get its hands on public school money. In 1996, the Wall Street investment firm Lehman Brothers issued a report saying, "the education industry may replace health care in 1996 as THE focus industry." A director at the company added that America's public schools are "ripe for takeover by private management companies...Wall Street is interested in any big spending industry." At that time, there were 250 charter schools in 23 states. Today there are about 3,000 charter schools in 40 states.

The drive to create charter schools – to the extent it's successful – will end up destroying the public schools by draining the money from them. Public schools were won through social struggles dating back to the 1800s. It was only with the growth of public schools that working people could get an education for their children. Charter schools take us backward hundreds of years to before that time.

Three thousand people demonstrated last October in Michigan's capital, Lansing, pushing back, for a time at least, that drive to add more charter schools. It will take similar and bigger efforts to stop it once more.

Pages 4-5

Lies about the bombing in Spain
– and many other things

Jul 19, 2004

A Parliamentary commission established to investigate the March 11 bombings in Madrid recently took testimony from members of the Aznar government that was in office at the time. These interviews confirm what people around the world suspected: Aznar and his minister consciously lied when they blamed the ETA, a domestic Basque separatist organization, for the bombing.

The bombs killed 190 people and wounded thousands more in the train station – most of them workers on their way to the job. With the attacks coming just three days before the legislative elections, Aznar's government tried to limit their electoral fallout.

To be precise, what Aznar tried to do was hide what this bombing was: a consequence of his government joining the Americans in the war against Iraq. Thus Aznar tried to shift the blame onto a domestic organization.

The conclusions of the parliamentary investigation confirmed that Aznar's government out and out lied. The methods used, as shocking as they are, are not very unusual. All the governments of the world that protect the interests of the wealthy owners do so in the name of the people. Thus it is an essential part of their policy to fool the people.

Look, for example, at the United States and Great Britain, who launched a war against the Iraqi people, pretending it was a search for weapons of mass destruction. Or consider Israel, which daily kills Palestinians in the name of peace. The French government, for its part, colonized half of Africa, carrying out bloody colonial wars in the name of "civilizing" these countries.

All these examples just underline why there is no reason for the people of any of these countries to believe any of these governments whose basic purpose is to protect the wealthy.

No economic crisis for weapons sales

Jul 19, 2004

The Swedish Institute for Peace just published its report on yearly weapons sales throughout the world. In the last two years, weapons sales are up by almost 20%. Almost one trillion dollars are spent each year now on this industry of death – more than 10 times the amount spent to help develop the poorest countries of the world.

Of course, the United States spends the most. Almost half of all weapons sold in the world are bought by the U.S. government and military. After September 11th, military sales exploded, to the great profit of the U.S. arms industry.

In addition to spending the most on weapons, the U.S. is also the country which sells the most weaponry. After the U.S. come Great Britain, France, Russia and China. These countries also are the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – in case anyone thought the U.N. might end this profitable trade any time soon.

Although the richer countries have only one in six of the earth's people, they account for three out of every four dollars spent for the military purchases. This amount represents $152 for every person on the planet, half a year's existence for about a billion people.

This enormous waste will continue so long as governments are controlled by the big financiers and industrialists and in particular the corporations of death like Boeing, Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin.

The International Court has condemned the construction of the wall

Jul 19, 2004

The following article is translated from the July 16 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the newspaper of the French revolutionary group of that name.

On July 9, the International Court of Justice in the Hague condemned the Israeli government's construction of a wall along the border of the West Bank. The Court ordered that the wall be taken down, and that the Palestinians who were penalized or who had their lands expropriated should be compensated.

This wall, which is to be over 500 miles long and more than 25 feet high, is presented by the Israeli government as a way to protect against terrorism. Without it, they claim, they will not be able to stop men and women who are ready to sacrifice their lives to take revenge for what the leaders of Israel have been doing to the Palestinian people. In fact, the Israeli government is building a divider based on hatred, upon the separation of the Palestinian and the Israeli populations. In order to end up with the majority of the Israeli settler colonies that are on Palestinian land, the wall has been curved to annex some 17% of the West Bank. The wall even cuts some Palestinian cities in two, depriving thousands of Palestinians access to sanitation and administrative services. Some families have even been split from one side of the wall to the other.

In response to the ruling by the Hague Court, the Israeli government immediately announced that it would continue to construct the wall anyway. Netanyahu, the Finance Minister of Israel stated, "What's going to happen now? This is going to the U.N. General Assembly. They can decide anything there. They can say the earth is flat."

This is hardly the first U.N. decision taken against actions of the Israeli government. There have been many other votes in the United Nations reproaching Israel; many resolutions censoring Israeli actions. None have been respected by Israel: from the time of the 1948 resolution recognizing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land, up to the resolution condemning Israel's occupation of the West Bank in 1967.

Knowing that they would still have the backing of American imperialism, the state of Israel has always turned up its nose at resolutions condemning its actions. And the international organizations and courts that are supposed to enforce justice know full well that the decisions they take will not be enforced. For years now, this game of dupery has continued.

International relations are not regulated by some legality, but rather by the relationship of forces in a struggle arbitrated by the imperialist powers – by the strongest among them, U.S. imperialism.

Waste and fraud:
Arms merchants know their business

Jul 19, 2004

Congressional hearings beginning July 22 will take testimony from six former employees of Halliburton. Halliburton is accused of "fraud" in its contracts connected to the Iraq war. Halliburton has contracts of over a billion dollars for supplying troops in Iraq, not to mention the multi-billion dollars contract for rebuilding the Iraqi oil industry and other billion-dollar contracts for military support in the Balkans and Afghanistan.

Halliburton, of course, is not the only company profiting from this war. The "Big Three" of military contracts – Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman and Boeing – get even bigger contracts than does Halliburton. In 2002, Lockheed Martin had 17 billion dollars in Pentagon contracts, Boeing had 16.6 billion and Northrup Grumman got 8.7 billion.

The official military budget – the majority of which goes to such contracts – stands at 400 billion dollars today. And this figure doesn't include contracts from other government agencies, like the Energy Department's two-billion-dollar-a-year contract to Lockheed Martin to run the Sandia National Laboratories for research on nuclear weapons and the Nevada Test Site for underground testing. Lockheed Martin gets billions each year as part of the administration's so-called war on terror.

In fact, Lockheed Martin alone gets more money each year than is spent on the entire federal welfare program, TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

These big contracts don't neglect to reward those at the top: Vice President Dick Cheney, as chief executive of Halliburton, got 26 million dollars in 1999. This amount, and others like it, was paid during the Clinton administration's years of overseeing military contracts. The CEO of Lockheed Martin pushed up his salary from some 6 million during the Clinton years to 25 million in 2002.

Fraud? You bet. The whole thing is a fraud. And not just because the Coalition Provision Authority in Iraq has, as its inspector general, a man who worked eight years directly on Bush's staff. Nor because a former vice president of Chevron-Texaco, Norm Szydolowski, heads the CPA Review Board to oversee contracts concerning Iraqi oil.

The major reason for military spending is to create a force to impose U.S. corporations on countries around the world. But a secondary reason is to pump super profits into some of the biggest corporations in the country through contracts for goods and services.

Since World War II, under five Democratic presidents and six Republican presidents, the merchants of death have flourished. Congress has been equally determined to help their pals, whether it was during the 20 terms led by Democrat majorities or the seven terms led by Republican majorities. In the words of economist Paul Krugman, these elected representatives insist they will "leave no defense contractor behind."

Pages 6-7

United misses pension payment

Jul 19, 2004

On June 14, United Airlines said it was "putting off" paying 72 million dollars into its pension funds. Using its status in bankruptcy to get around the legal requirement, United also blamed the Transportation Stabilization Board for turning down its request for loan guarantees.

Just two days before, United executives warned employees that the company would have to dig deeper on costs – that is, it wanted more concessions from United workers.

The company had already taken massive concessions from the workers. Pilots's pay was cut 29%, flight attendants 9% and mechanics, baggage handlers and agents 13%. After numerous layoffs, the remaining workers now handle the same number of passengers as before, but with reduced break times, forced overtime, speed up and overwork.

This first round of cuts was approved by the workers, who apparently hoped that the concessions would protect their jobs. In fact, all they did was open the door for the company to come back again and again for more concessions. Two months ago, United and the unions agreed that 27,000 retirees should pay 50 million dollars a year out of their pockets for health care.

It's like a thief who robs you. If you don't do something about it, he'll come back again – and again. United workers don't have to let these thugs running the company walk all over them. They have the forces and the power to bring United to heel – to make it bring its pension plan up to what's needed, and to give back the concessions. The money is there to do it – in United's accounts – or in the accounts of all those companies United is financially linked with, starting with JP Morgan Chase and Citibank, the giant banks calling the shots at the company.

DCX spreads concession virus to Germany

Jul 19, 2004

DaimlerChrysler Corporation (DCX) has had good results taking concessions from U.S. workers, and now it is applying the same strategy against the workers in Germany.

DCX says that unless German workers give up concessions, the company will eliminate 6,000 jobs at the Mercedes plant in Sindelfingen, and move the work to where it claims labor costs are cheaper – in north Germany and in South Africa.

DCX demands that the Mercedes workers give up five minutes' paid break per hour, that is normally banked toward paid days off. Other reported demands include that the workers give up their scheduled raise in 2005, and reduce their shift premiums – currently 15% for shifts that start after noon, and 30% for shifts that start after 7 p.m.

DCX executives say that their company can't stay competitive unless workers' wages and benefits go down. Where have we heard that line before? For twenty years, U.S. auto workers have given up dollar after dollar in wage and benefit cuts – and job after job in speed-up – under company threats of outsourcing work to the South, or to Mexico, or to any other place they say wages will be lower.

It's come to the point that now, in Germany, auto companies are using the U.S. itself as an example of a low-wage, low-cost country! The companies claim that wage costs in Germany are now 12% higher than in the U.S. And that German workers put in 18% fewer hours per year than U.S. workers!

The CEO of DCX's Mercedes division actually called workers' 5-minute paid breaks a "disease."

But the real "disease" is the concessions infection, a social virus carried by companies from one place to another, around the whole world.

The union IG Metall organized a week of protests by Mercedes workers, capped by a 24-hour walkout of about 60,000 on July 15. More power to the German workers!

Mumia Abu-Jamal remains on Death Row

Jul 19, 2004

Mumia Abu-Jamal, a 50-year-old black man, has been on Death Row in Pennsylvania for twenty years for a crime he didn't commit. He was convicted in 1982 of killing a cop and was sentenced to death. State authorities are now using a June 24 U.S. Supreme Court decision, trying to move forward his execution. The Court ruled that prisoners can be executed for crimes that occurred before 1988, even if today they wouldn't be.

Abu-Jamal's case happened on the night of December 8, 1981, when he was driving a taxi cab. He came upon a cop beating up his brother. Mumia Abu-Jamal stopped his cab and started to intervene. Shots rang out, and he and the cop were shot. Witnesses said another man had done the shooting and run off. Abu-Jamal had no weapon that had been fired – and the cops carefully forgot to test him for gunshot residue.

Abu-Jamal had been a thorn in the side of the system for years. He was Minister of Information for the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia when he was 17. He became a newspaper and radio reporter, exposing police and FBI attacks on the black nationalist organization MOVE in Philadelphia. All this made him a target for the cops on that fatal night.

At his trial, he was given an inexperienced lawyer who had never tried a death penalty case. The judge allowed him only $150 to conduct a pre-trial investigation, while the prosecutors interviewed over 125 witnesses.

A campaign has been carried out in defense of Abu-Jamal for years, both in this country and abroad. His legal defense is appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals regarding racist jury selection practices, to the Court of Common Pleas over new evidence of innocence and fraud on the part of the prosecutors, and before the U.S. District Court with regard to a racist statement by his trial judge.

The so-called "justice system" in this country is quite capable of ruling against him, despite the merits of the case. Unless considerable outside pressure is brought to bear, Abu-Jamal will wind up in the execution chamber.

It's important that we not forget Mumia Abu-Jamal and all the other prisoners on death row in conditions like his.

Page 8

Trying to claim benefits
– but the government hides them

Jul 19, 2004

According to a survey done by the Detroit Free Press, over half a million disabled U.S. veterans are not getting all their military benefits. They don't know about them – the Veterans Administration didn't bother to tell them!

Is the government ready to use you as cannon fodder? Let you be ground up in their war machine? And then toss you out in the street?

Yes! Without even blinking an eye!

Mental illness affects 1 of 6 Iraqi war veterans

Jul 19, 2004

A significant number of U.S. soldiers returning from the war in Iraq are experiencing emotional disorders. A recent study carried out through Walter Reed Army Institute of Research shows that 17% are suffering major depression, severe anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Yes, of course. They have been carrying out a dirty war and occupation – one they never wanted or decided on. GI's speak of the guilt they feel when soldiers they knew were killed nearby, or guilt from participating in operations causing the death of Iraqis, especially civilians.

Doctors specializing in PTSD of veterans are warning that figures of mental illness are likely to increase; that it takes time for troops experiencing symptoms to recognize them and seek help. This study was conducted 3 to 4 months after troops returned from Iraq. Whereas in the first Gulf War, studies weren't conducted until years after the war was over, and decades after the Viet Nam War ended; and only after veterans groups persistently called for it.

It's impossible not to recall the number of guys who returned home from Viet Nam with permanent terrible psychological scars. Testimony to this are the large number of Viet Nam vets included in the homeless on street corners and in soup kitchen lines still today.

Anyone who thinks doesn't need a study to know that war is horrible. But this study is interesting because it's the government's own admission that it is producing a new generation damaged in ways that will not heal easily.

The rich have a special 'profile'

Jul 19, 2004

The Detroit Free Press reports that Asaad Kalasho, an Iraqi-American businessman in West Bloomfield, Michigan, had negotiated a 16-million-dollar deal in 2000 with Saddam Hussein for satellite broadcasts to the U.S. when sanctions against Iraq made such deals illegal. Far from being investigated and charged, he was recently given a Republican Party leadership position, rewarded for raising over $100,000 for the Bush campaign! Why not? He wasn't doing anything Cheney and Bush hadn't done.

Of course, the day after the story broke, the Republicans returned that part of the $100,000 given under Mr. Kalasho's personal signature – but not the rest!

As fish go, Mr. Asaad Kalasho is actually very small fry.

What about the business ties of the Bush family to personalities and corporations that promote and profit from the war in Iraq? The first President Bush, with notables like ex-British Prime Minister John Major, used the Carlyle Group to invest in military contractors which got – and continue to get – huge contracts to supply the Iraq war.

Or why doesn't Vice President Cheney receive a visit from investigators about his ties to Halliburton and its services to Saddam Hussein's regime both before and during the sanctions? Not to mention Halliburton's mountains of profits from contracts to supply the current U.S. war.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, investigators harass and intimidate hundreds of ordinary Arab people in this country, interrogating them at work, questioning their neighbors, creating uproar and suspicion on no grounds except that a person is Arab, or looks Arab.

It's government as usual: making false targets of everyday people, in order to hide the back-room profiteering of the wealthy and powerful.

U.S. Senate Intelligence report on "Group Think"

Jul 19, 2004

U.S. officials have had the devil of a time trying to explain why the reasons they gave for going to war against Iraq, why all the stories about weapons of mass destruction and ties with al Qaeda, have proven to be complete and utter lies. In the latest attempt, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report that was supposed to be the fruit of a year-long investigation into this very problem. It gained unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats alike.

So, how did so many officials, starting with the White House and Congress, get it "wrong," according to the eminent Republicans and Democrats of the U.S. Senate? After 511 pages and 117 separate conclusions, the report finally concludes that the top officials were the victims of – get this – "a culture of group think" and a "dysfunctional intelligence structure" at the CIA that had an "institutional belief" that Iraq possessed illicit weapons.

What a lot of double talk.

Who ever believed Bush's reasons for war? Certainly not the millions of people in this country who demonstrated against it. Clearly, behind all of Bush's bluster were the flimsiest of excuses that were constantly and easily being taking apart by a host of experts. There was the former weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who didn't stop denouncing what Bush was saying. Even the U.N. weapons inspectors, who usually bend over backward to accommodate the U.S. government, refused to come to the conclusions that Bush wanted. As for the CIA, which winds up being the main culprit in the Senate report, everyone knows how Cheney and Rumsfeld leaned on it to make sure that it spouted the "right" kind of intelligence – which of course it obligingly did – to the delight and joy of the very same Democrats and Republicans who today so publicly wring their hands over "group think" in the CIA.

Certainly, if the Democrats and Republicans followed their own conclusions about how wrong the reasons were for the U.S. to invade Iraq, they would call for an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. and foreign troops from Iraq and the turning over of hundreds of billions of dollars in funds to allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their country and get on with the rest of their lives.

The fact that they don't, only proves that they are ready to continue to support a war that they admit is a lie, just as they earlier supported the lies that brought the war on.