The Spark

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

Issue no. 736 — October 11 - 25, 2004

Let our voices be heard:
Vote against both Bush and Kerry

Oct 11, 2004

Why don't the polls show Bush losing the election by a landslide?

Why don't they show that the Republicans will be swept from power for how they have made us pay for this bloody and vile war in Iraq – a war the majority of the population opposes?

The Bush administration has lavished fabulous tax breaks and subsidies on the rich and big corporations at the expense of the working population.

And Bush pushed through ever more repressive laws, like the despicable USA-Patriot Act, as well as picking up, arresting, and holding without trial thousands of people in one sweep after another.

Bush's policies have penalized the entire working class and a part of the middle classes, that is, the vast majority of the population.

So why is the election so close? Why don't the polls show a huge majority of people eager to vote for Kerry on November 2?

Because John Kerry and the Democrats are proposing to continue the same basic policies that Bush imposed. Kerry and the Democrats may criticize the way Bush got us into war in Iraq. But Kerry openly promises to step up the wars, sending even more troops and bombs to terrorize the people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kerry may criticize Bush's tax cuts to the wealthy. But he doesn't propose to stop opening the government vault to big corporations the wealthy own and control. Instead, he promises to hand out even more tax cuts to the corporations – repeating Bush's lie that tax cuts will create jobs.

Kerry may criticize Bush for how he uses the USA-Patriot Act, the spying and provocations of the FBI and police on those who protest against Bush's policies. But Kerry doesn't propose to repeal those laws and muzzle the police and the FBI.

Kerry and Bush stand for essentially the same things. And the majority of workers know it. That is why the election looks like a dead heat. The working class really has no choice.

Ignoring this fact of political life, the heads of the unions and other organizations argue that the most important thing is to get Bush out. They say that if we don't support the Democrats, we will throw our vote away.

No – voting for either candidate is a way to throw our vote away. Giving either one our vote means throwing our support to the very policies that victimize us today.

Yes, workers have to find a way to make our voices heard. But that means to go outside the old two-party system that has dominated politics for so long. It means to build an alternative, a working class alternative.

We can begin by organizing against the attacks: to oppose the wars, the layoffs and job cuts, the cuts in wages and benefits, the cuts in government services. We can defend ourselves – by counting on our own strength and determination. And those fights can lay the groundwork for the working class to build its own party.

If we want that party, we will stop reinforcing the Democrats and Republicans. We will refuse to give them our votes any longer. In some states there are socialist parties running, for example, the Socialist Workers Party or Workers World Party. These parties may be small, but they take the side of the working class. We can give them our vote to show we want a party representing the working class. In other states we may have no choice. But we can always pull a voting machine lever without marking any name.

Don't throw our vote away by giving it to parties that will use it against us!

Pages 2-3

The Vioxx fiasco:
Making a killing with a dangerous drug

Oct 11, 2004

The pharmaceutical company Merck abruptly pulled its big-selling painkiller Vioxx off the market at the end of September. Vioxx had accounted for eleven% of Merck's sales, bringing in 2.5 billion dollars a year.

Vioxx had been touted as a miracle drug, more effective than other painkillers like aspirin, Tylenol and ibuprofen, without side-effects like stomach irritation. In fact, it works no better than these over-the-counter pain killers; and it even carries the same risk of stomach upset.

But that's not the worst of it – Vioxx has been shown to raise risks of blood clot, heart attack, stroke – and death – among those who take it.

Vioxx's dangers finally got it pulled off the shelves – but it had been on the market for over 5 years, and was taken by over 1.3 million people in the United States alone.

Vioxx is no different from other brands of prescription pain relievers like Celebrex and Bextra. They all work the same way. So, if Vioxx raises risks of heart disease, it's a good bet the others do, too.

In fact, the group Public Citizen has already come out with a warning that Bextra shows the same serious safety problems that Vioxx does.

The only ones who benefit from these drugs are the drug companies themselves. Unlike other pain relievers, they're patented. The drug companies each own their specific variety, so they control the price. And they've made a killing on these drugs, which are MUCH more expensive than other pain killers.

Merck is just like all the other pharmaceuticals, marketing their versions of Vioxx: it didn't spend money on research to find a product that was safer and more effective. It did it to find a drug that it could control, patent, and market – while charging ridiculously high prices for it. Even though the drug was NOT any more effective than aspirin – and MUCH more dangerous.

For pharmaceutical companies like Merck, their first thought is not the health of the patient, but the health of their profits. And they don't care how much blood their money is covered with.

Cost of home heat:
In capitalism's grip

Oct 11, 2004

Workers will have to pay much more for home heating this winter. Everyone says so – that is, everyone quoted in the media. Their broadcast message is clear: workers have no choice but to get used to it, because oil prices have shot up so high.

Whether it's gas at the pump, or electricity prices, or heating oil, or natural gas, we are always told that the supply is short, so prices must go up.

Of course, when supply is plentiful, prices never drop back down as far as they had jumped up! So already the "supply" argument is wrong. And it's wrong for this winter, too.

Even when oil prices were around $35 a barrel, much less than today's $55, professionals at funds like Oppenheimer's could say they found "no justification whatever for oil prices ... absolutely no supply shortages and demand is not so strong as to justify the current price."

Today, the Wall Street Journal reflects many other big investors' conclusion: "Oil has become a speculator's paradise." And all energy companies are seizing their chance and climbing on the bandwagon.

In other words, this winter, workers will cut corners, dial down, and even sometimes go without heat, not to pay for the actual energy they use – but to pay to put super-profits in the pockets of those who are wealthy enough to gamble in the world oil casino.

Detroit police:
Holding back the evidence for three months

Oct 11, 2004

Detroit police and prosecutors on October 5 finally dropped their case against Davon Caldwell, the man they had charged with shooting nine people at the fireworks celebration on June 23.

Caldwell was arrested the day after the shooting and held ever since on a 150 million dollar bond – despite the fact that prosecutors never had a case against him. There was no physical evidence tying Caldwell to the shooting. And with only one exception, witnesses to the shooting said Caldwell was not the shooter. One witness – whom police didn't even bother to interview – had to go to the police after seeing Caldwell on television. He had always said that the shooter was shorter, darker and had only a goatee, while Caldwell had a full beard. In fact, the police were able to produce only one witness who they say identified Caldwell as the shooter, but the young man himself said he was unsure about it.

In other words, the cops had no evidence and no real witnesses. This didn't prevent them from picking up Caldwell or from lying to him, telling him they found gunshot residue in his car. In reality, they found none.

So what was the rush to arrest Caldwell? Quite simply, the city was concerned about its image, with several big sporting events scheduled for the city. Officials for the 2006 Super Bowl were in town at the time of the shooting checking on Detroit's preparations for the event. An international golf tournament, the Ryder Cup, was to be held near Detroit in September and the baseball All-Star game is scheduled to be played in Detroit next year.

Only now after the Ryder cup is over did prosecutors drop the case. They say it took this long to get the DNA evidence. Three months? What lab did they use – one in the Antarctic, perhaps?

No, they waited three months to let the furor die down – and too bad if a young man lost three months of his life.

The police and city officials have their priorities. And justice is not one of them.

Leaving a man to rot on Death Row, despite proof of innocence

Oct 11, 2004

The judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals based in Cincinnati recently ruled 8 for conviction and execution, 6 for innocence and 1 for a new trial in the case of a man found guilty of murder in Tennessee in 1985. The case had come before the Appeals Court due to new DNA evidence.

Paul House had been convicted of killing his neighbor Carolyn Muncey. The prosecution said she was raped, which was the motive for the murder, and their experts testified the semen matched House's blood type. In fact, DNA analysis – which wasn't available at the time – showed that the semen in reality came only from Carolyn Muncey's husband Hubert. The likelihood that he raped her was backed up by the testimony of witnesses who said in court that the husband was an alcoholic who beat his wife. Three witnesses said the husband told them he killed her when he was drunk.

How is it possible that the majority of Appeals Court judges, confronted by such evidence, ruled to go ahead with his execution? They argued that the new evidence wasn't introduced at the time of the original trial! Little matter that DNA testing didn't even exist then. For these judges, it isn't a question whether House is guilty or innocent, but of insisting that no late evidence can be introduced.

Undoubtedly this case will be appealed up the ladder, and it might well be overturned. But how outrageous is a so-called justice system that decides matters only by timeliness? A system that could maintain an innocent man in prison and even put him to death because of bureaucratic rules has nothing to do with justice.

The flu vaccine crisis:
Sacrificing public health for corporate profits

Oct 11, 2004

British government regulators shut down the Liverpool plant of the Chiron Corporation, which produced flu vaccines. That plant was supposed to deliver nearly 50 million batches of vaccine to the United States – half the flu shots health officials had expected to be available in the U.S. during the coming flu season.

The contamination at Chiron's plant has been called an "accident." Perhaps. But such "accidents" happen for a reason: because corporations try to maximize their profits by cutting costs – and thus risk the safety and quality of the product.

What turned one such "accident" into a full-fledged crisis, however, is the fact that very few companies produce the flu vaccine. This year, only two companies were scheduled to provide practically all the flu shots for the U.S. population – and now it's down to one.

Big drug companies don't want to produce the flu vaccine because it's not as profitable as other drugs whose patents they hold. One big company, Wyeth, for example, stopped making flu shots last year and started marketing FluMist, a newly-patented, inhaled flu vaccine, instead – which carried a very inflated price.

But that's still not the whole story. The profit-driven nature of the drug industry not only causes a shortage of the flu vaccine, it also hampers the development of more efficient vaccines.

Since new strains of the flu virus spread every year, there needs to be constant, up-to-date research to develop new vaccines. For decades, however, this kind of research has been neglected because the companies have no "incentive" to do it.

The flu has been around for a long time, and we have a relatively good understanding of its causes and prevention. Yet, every year, nearly one out of five Americans gets the flu. On average, 36,000 of them die and 200,000 are hospitalized.

Those casualty figures are a stark indictment of the conscious choices made by big pharmaceutical companies. The health and well-being of the whole society is too important to be left in the hands of a few corporations whose only motive is to maximize their profits.

Los Angeles:
When the poor can't even afford the slums...

Oct 11, 2004

A woman was killed in late September when a fire broke out in a warehouse in South Los Angeles. The warehouse's second floor had been converted into dozens of tiny apartments with a common kitchen. After the fire, the Building and Safety Department found all kinds of hazards in the apartments, including faulty wiring, missing smoke detectors, unsafe window grates and un-reinforced walls, ceilings and floors.

No wonder Los Angeles has a history of such tragedies. Seventeen years ago, the Los Angeles Times conducted a survey, finding that 200,000 people were living in garages and other illegally converted structures. No one has studied the situation since, but it undoubtedly has grown much worse. With rents and real estate prices skyrocketing since then, the number of people living in such dilapidated dwellings has gone through the roof.

Officials of the Building and Safety Department say that kicking poor people out into the street is not a solution. Today, according to city officials, there are more than 20,000 families on the waiting list for public housing. Another 70,000 are on a waiting list for Section 8 housing vouchers. "If you enforced all the building codes on the books, there would be at least 500,000 people on the street tomorrow," said a UCLA law professor who specializes in housing issues.

All of this is true – but what is the answer? City officials certainly don't touch the root cause of the problem, that is, real estate speculation which has been pushing house prices and rents into the stratosphere. Nor do they propose to construct the housing that is needed. De facto, the only possibilities they leave open are for working people either to pay almost all of their income for housing or live in dilapidated, unsafe buildings – or both.

A few speculators' right to make millions comes before millions of families' right to have a decent roof over their heads. Capitalism should emblazon this on its flags – it certainly is its motto.

Pages 4-5

Afghanistan elections:
This IS the bosses' democracy!

Oct 11, 2004

Afghanistan's presidential election took place Saturday under a cloud of widespread fraud.

The problem stemmed from bad ink. The system put in place to prevent multiple voting involved placing "indelible" ink on the thumbs of everyone who came through to vote. When it was discovered Saturday morning that the ink could easily be washed off, fifteen of the sixteen candidates effectively withdrew, accusing interim president Hamid Karzai of rigging the election.

The easily washable ink was only one problem of many. The ink was supposed to be a way to correct another problem: many voters had been issued more than one voter registration ID card, and would be able to vote several times, once for each card. In some areas of the country, over 140% of the adult population was registered to vote!

On top of that, there is not yet any lasting peace over many parts of the country. Many regions are controlled by local warlords, and so was the balloting in those regions. Before the elections, there was widespread reporting of intimidation by the warlords to vote one way or another. Once the balloting was finished, the ballot boxes needed to be collected together and transported from the villages to the city of Kabul, where they would be counted. The collection and counting could take several weeks, and there's no way to tell just how many ballot boxes will reach Kabul without being tampered with.

That may not matter anyway, since the JEMC (Joint Election Management Body), which ran the election and will count the ballots, is stacked with people appointed by Karzai. Even before the problem with the ink was made known Saturday, many had concluded that Karzai's election was a foregone conclusion, and that the voting was a sham.

There were also many technical problems created by lack of supplies like pens to mark the ballots, and a lack of training for the members of the JEMC in the short time they had. The rushed timetable of the Afghan election made no sense in terms of the situation in Afghanistan; but it made a lot of sense for George W. Bush, who wanted to be able to point to "free and fair elections" in Afghanistan to help HIS election chances in November.

Free and fair? No way – it's a sham, meant to be a show, without giving the people a real voice in the outcome.

Sound familiar? It should. It's a perfect example of this systems's idea of democracy in action!

Government demands that squatters move out

Oct 11, 2004

Thousands of homeless people have taken up residence in abandoned public buildings or land in Iraq. Some of the squatters are families whose homes were destroyed by U.S. bombing or by artillery shells and rockets fired in street battles between U.S. and opposition forces. Others are families who had been forced to move out of their old apartments and houses because of soaring rents following the end of rent controls that existed under Saddam Hussein's regime.

The squatters see no alternative but to continue squatting in the abandoned buildings. "I definitely feel that we deserve these houses..., because we are poor Iraqis and we are citizens of this country and we have no place to go," said Nasser Lafta, a former taxi driver, when he was interviewed recently. Lafta is now squatting with 23 of his relatives in a house that was used by two of Saddam Hussein's sons.

Top officials in the Baghdad city government claim they haven't been able to have new houses and apartments built because of the continuing battles between U.S. and opposition forces. So, isn't the remedy obvious? The squatters not only should be allowed to continue living in the buildings they've occupied, but Iraqi and U.S. officials should help refurbish these buildings so they are liveable.

Instead, Jaleel Abaidy, a spokesman for the Baghdadcity government recently said, "This situation must come to an end, or it will spread... these people must understand that they have no right to live there." He said the city had taken steps to have the courts authorize evictions even though there were no plans to offer any compensation or assistance to evicted families."On the contrary, the government must punish them," Abaidy said, "because they are violators. The behavior they committed is wrong, and if we encourage such behavior we will face chaos in the future. You can't just live in a place you don't own and expect people to reward you. In the whole world no laws allow that, and we will not either."

This is the government that the U.S. has set up and is supporting today in Iraq. It is the government that U.S. officials say they are working with to bring "democracy" to Iraq.

The "Days of Repentance" become days of massacre

Oct 11, 2004

Over 94 Palestinians were killed and many more wounded in the first 12 days after the Israeli army started an offensive in the northern part of the Gaza strip. The death count could go much higher: the Israeli authorities expect the operation called "Days of Repentance" to last a number of weeks.

Several months ago, Israeli Prime Minister Arial Sharon declared that Israel would pull out of the Gaza strip and that the ultra-religious Jewish settlements in this area would be dismantled. These announcements were, in fact, a recognition that the ongoing strength and persistence of the Palestinian revolt against the Israeli occupiers of their land – the second Intifada – has made it impossible for Israel to achieve its objectives.

Were Sharon's announcements also a decision to try to take Israel out of the bloody quagmire of the last 37 years in the Gaza? These announcements were surely an attempt to gain a free hand to carve up the rest of the occupied territories. Because at the same time, Sharon has continued to build the "Wall of Shame" that divides up the West Bank into pieces, putting the majority of the Palestinian population into ghettos.

Yet inside Israel, the announcement of a progressive retreat from Gaza proved to be too much of a compromise for the nationalist and religious right-wingers. The settlers and their supporters in the government mobilized to oppose Sharon's announcements. They organized demonstrations against Sharon, accusing him of being a traitor to the "sacred land of Israel," which in their eyes includes all of the Palestinian territories.

On the Palestinian side, the Hamas militia then reacted by firing rockets into Jewish settlements, killing two children. Sharon used this excuse to send tanks and helicopters into the Gaza strip. He accused the Palestinian population there of collectively supporting the "terrorists." Sharon acts as if it is not this terrorism of the Israeli state for all these years that serves as Hamas' justification for its actions against the Jewish population. He acts as if the Israeli policy of national oppression of the Palestinians, carried out with the cynical and hypocritical support of the major world powers, can produce any other result than a permanent war between two peoples. It is the Palestinians who pay the biggest price, but it is also ordinary Israelis who fall victim to countless attacks and to much repression – as the subsequent terrorist attack on Israelis in Egypt shows.

Today more than ever – for the interests first of all of the Palestinians but also for the Israeli population – the only way to move out of this bloody impasse is for the Israeli troops and settlers to withdraw completely from all the Palestinian territories.

Talking about terrorism to avoid telling the truth about it

Oct 11, 2004

Kerry and Bush are both making a point to talk about the threat of terrorism. Accusing each other of not doing enough or not voting for enough, they talk about police, fire and emergency medical personnel, as well as the Homeland Security Department and a new Intelligence Czar. They debate who really will implement the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission Report.

But the one thing that neither of them has ever discussed is why there is so much terrorism today in the world and, more to the point, why the U.S. is increasingly the target, here or abroad.

If there is terrorism today directed against the U.S., it's precisely because the U.S. controls so much of what happens in other countries.

U.S. corporations impoverish people around the world, stealing the proceeds of their labor, draining natural resources from their countries.

And the U.S. military is used to impose this state of affairs on other people. Today, there are more than 900 U.S. military bases in more than 100 countries around the world. Those bases were not built in countries thousands of miles away to defend the shores of the U.S. from attack. They are there, staffed by hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops, to back up U.S. companies as they steal the world's wealth.

The U.S. has long carried out wars – big and small – against other people around the globe. Long before the current wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military was taking action somewhere in the world every single day. Whether it was oil in the Middle East or uranium in Somalia or manufactured goods in Haiti, U.S. troops were thrown into action to prevent impoverished people from rising up.

U.S. money and training supports military dictators around the world, helping them to keep their own impoverished populations under control – just as the U.S. once aided Saddam Hussein.

And the U.S. funds terrorists around the world to attack regimes it can't control – just as it once funded Osama bin Laden or more recently funded terrorists in Venezuela.

Terrorism, which targets innocent civilians, is despicable, no matter where it's carried out and against whom.

But we need to understand that the wave of terrorism we see today has been caused by the widespread state-sponsored violence the U.S. has unleashed against people all around the globe.

U.S. policies toward other countries have produced a whole generation of desperate people, ready to sacrifice themselves in order to stop the U.S., or at least to avenge themselves for what they have seen the U.S. do.

Of course, Bush and Kerry don't speak of this – because they are the representatives of the parties that carried out – and will continue to carry out – wars and repressive policies in the far-flung corners of the world.

If we want an end to terrorism, we have to oppose the terrorism that the U.S. carries out against people in other countries – including what is the worst terrorism of all, the bombing and wars the U.S. carries out against civilian populations in other countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pages 6-7

Hotel workers:
More than a fight for a new contract

Oct 11, 2004

On September 30, about 1,200 workers at four large luxury hotels in San Francisco, members of Unite Here Local 2, walked out. Union representatives said it would be only a two-week limited strike to protest the fact that the workers were working without a contract.

Within two days, the hotel owners escalated the fight. Management at all 14 hotels covered by the union contract locked out all 4,000 union workers – indefinitely. The hotels then brought in scabs and extra management personnel to run the hotels.

The main union demand is to align the new contract expiration dates in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. with the hotel contracts in seven other big cities. Unite Here spokespersons say that if the contracts expire together, they will have added leverage to gain better contracts against the big hotel chains, including Hilton, Hyatt, Omni, Crowne Plaza, and a few independent operators.

Once the union contracts expired in the three cities, the owners took the initiative against the workers. First, the owners unilaterally began to deduct an additional premium for health benefits from the hotel workers' checks. In Los Angeles, the owner of the Wilshire Grande locked out nine workers in the laundry.

Effectively, the hotels put the unions on notice they were prepared for a fight. The unions did not respond in kind.

Certainly hotel workers could have a lot going for them in this fight – if they decide to use their forces. They can count on their own ability to organize, which they have shown just recently as they built unions in several new cities.

And they have the possibility to up the ante by bringing other workers into the fight. After all, these hotels are in the centers of large cities in which there are tens of thousands of other workers who face the same problems – low pay, few benefits, and ever heavier work loads. The strike of the hotel workers could be the jumping off place for a much wider fight in which workers jam the big downtown areas, their streets, plazas and buildings, in a fight for a better life.

This fight, like others before, carries within it the possibility of becoming something that the working class in this country has needed for a long time: the beginning of the workers' counteroffensive against the unending onslaught of corporate attacks against the entire working class.

But for that to happen, the workers have to break out of the straitjacket that union officials have put them in strike after strike. They have the means to do what union leaders didn't call on them to do – respond to the lock-out with a wider struggle.

D.C. area power plants:
Deadly agreement

Oct 11, 2004

At the end of September, Mirant Corporation, the owner and operator of 27 power plants, agreed to put in pollution controls on four power plants around the Washington D.C. area, three in Maryland and one in Virginia. Virginia officials said they are happy about the corporation's agreement, but the results don't look so good to people living in the area. Mirant will only gradually reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from 45,000 tons per year to 16,000 tons per year. And they have another SIX years to do it. The emission control projects don't have to be finished until 2010!

Mirant's Chalk Point plant is 40 years old. Its emissions are estimated to have been responsible every year for 270 unnecessary deaths from heart attacks and lung disease, plus 7500 asthma attacks and 1400 additional emergency room visits. The figures come from a 2002 study by health researchers at Harvard University, which Mirant, of course, disputes.

More than 30 years ago, during a period of increasing concern about the environment, angry protests led to Congress passing the Clean Air Act of 1970. But polluting companies continued to ignore it – until 1977 when congress made it legal to do so. The 1977 addition to the Clean Air Act allowed utility companies and other industrial corporations to put off installing pollution controls until they did "major" renovations. In some cases, corporations took newer facilities out of use and kept the old ones going – simply to avoid putting in pollution controls.

The officials who have now agreed to the new consent decree say not a word about who will pay for the new pollution controls. But consumers can get an idea from what Mirant did in the California electricity crisis of 2000-2001. California's attorney general brought suit to recover money, accusing Mirant of "unjustly profiting from rampant lying and fraud ... draining billions of dollars from California's economy and rate-payers."

How did Mirant respond? It found the perfect way to avoid paying a penny back to California or Maryland or Virginia electricity customers – it took itself into bankruptcy court.

So no one will be too surprised when there is another charge or an increased rate on area electric utility bills in Maryland and Virginia.

Grabbing our wallets while choking us to death – that's Mirant's game.

Page 8

New U.S. offensive in Iraq:
"Shock and Awe" all over again

Oct 11, 2004

In the first days of October, the U.S. launched a new offensive to retake 20 to 30 cities of what the U.S. considers to be "no-go" zones, that is, areas of Iraq that are controlled by the Iraqi insurgency.

The U.S. launched its first big attack against Samarra, a medium sized city in central Iraq. U.S. jets, helicopters and artillery bombed and shelled what they called rebel positions. About 3,000 U.S. troops then followed up, going house to house in neighborhood after neighborhood. After three days of sometimes heavy fighting, the U.S. forces claimed that they had secured the city and declared victory.

However even the New York Times (October 3) admitted that the guerrillas simply left the city rather than fight: "As is common in large American offensives, the guerrillas seem to have melted away, allowing the Americans a seemingly quick and relatively bloodless victory."

But this "victory" was not "bloodless." The following day, a New York Times report quoted doctors in the hospitals and morgues saying that they were filled with the bodies of countless women, children and the elderly. "The hospital is full of bodies, children are buried in gardens, and there are bodies filling the streets," said one Iraqi.

Shortly after taking Samarra, U.S. forces then moved on to neighboring Falluja, a city of 200,000 that is considered one of the main centers of resistance to the U.S. occupation, and Sadr City, the vast Baghdad slum where the population had first resisted the rule of Saddam Hussein and is now resisting the U.S. Once again, the U.S. began with massive bombing raids against what it called "terrorists" and "insurgents" centers. And, once again, most of the news reports were of a large toll of women and children, of people's homes and apartment buildings being blown up, of growing homelessness and misery.

Of course, U.S. spokespersons try to make it sound like the U.S. forces are doing the Iraqis a favor, that they just want to "free" these cities so that the people can participate in the much-hyped elections scheduled for January. As if it is up to the U.S. occupiers to decide what is best for the Iraqi people – by destroying their cities, invading their homes and killing their people.

In fact, confronted by a growing insurgency, the U.S. military is carrying out a new "Shock and Awe" campaign, that is, an enormous display of force and destruction against the population in urban areas. The bombing and artillery attacks render big parts of the cities uninhabitable, and force parts of the civilian population to leave. The U.S. then moves in to secure the streets with its huge tanks and armored personnel carriers, the Bradleys and Strykers. U.S. troops then go door-to-door, rounding up and arresting more people. The U.S. officials know that they are not about to find insurgents, who are long gone. Instead, they are trying to demoralize the population into relenting and accepting the U.S. occupation.

However, so far, all these offensives have accomplished is to increase the horrible toll and destruction, fuel the anger and hatred for the U.S. occupiers – and strengthen the insurgency.

The U.S. should get out of Iraq. NOW!

Oil-for-Food fed ... Big Oil

Oct 11, 2004

The CIA report just released included a section on the Oil-for-Food program. Under this program, Iraq under Saddam Hussein was allowed to sell an agreed-upon amount of oil, with the money going to purchase such necessities as food and medicine.

The economic embargo placed on Iraq by the U.S. after the first Gulf war had placed the population of Iraq at great risk of starvation from lack of food and treated water and death from preventable diseases. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children under five had already died. Humanitarian organizations estimated that 50 to 60% of the food consumed in Iraq was provided by Oil-for-Food after the program began in 1996.

Speaking after the report's release, one Congressman from Connecticut called Oil-for-Food a "thoroughly corrupt program." Another Congressman said this program showed the "full breadth of Saddam Hussein's corruption and manipulation of the U.N. Oil for Food program."

Hussein, corrupt? Undoubtedly! But during the whole period of the program, who benefitted the most? None other than six U.S. oil companies, including Chevron, Texaco, Exxon and Mobil. They were buying Iraqi oil at very low prices, then making a fat profit by selling the oil at much higher market prices.

In addition, the report revealed that Oscar Wyatt, an "independent" Texas oilman, was authorized to buy the largest amount of oil. Wyatt was known to have gained a profit of at least 12 million dollars for himself and another 10 million for his company.

It's true, the main beneficiaries of the Oil-for-Food program were not the Iraqi people – they were greedy U.S. oil companies.

Blood of Iraqis and Americans on their dirty hands

Oct 11, 2004

The new CIA report showed clearly that the Iraqi regime had no weapons of mass destruction since their stock-piles were destroyed under U.N. supervision after the first Gulf War. Nor did they have the capability to make nuclear weapons. And none of this was new information; it was widely known by U.N. weapons experts and U.S. intelligence analysts as far back as 1993, and confirmed ever since.

So the Bush administration justifications for going to war were lies, lies and more lies. Well, we knew that.

So why did all the big media in this country – television, newspapers, radios – repeat the lies without question? There were experts willing to refute the lies – like Scott Ritter, on the U.N. inspection team. The CIA itself briefed the media, exposing the lies. Yet only a few independent or left newspapers disputed the lies being repeated over and over again.

The Congress, which had access to this information, supported the Bush administration's plan to go after Saddam Hussein. On the basis of lies, challenged by weapons experts inside and outside of the government, Congress nonetheless voted the president the authority to go to war.

Where were all the Democrats who today pretend they oppose Bush's policies? Where were the moderate Republicans? All were beating the drums for war.

Where was the New York Times – with its motto "all the news that's fit to print." It was pushing for the war also. In this land of the supposedly "free" press, the press is free so long as it prints what suits those in power.

This is supposedly the country of the right of "free speech," but the anti-war movement was photographed by the FBI and sometimes arrested for challenging the rush to war. The media raised not a protest.

In this land of equality, young people are forced into the army in great part because they see no other opportunities. More than a thousand of them have already died in Iraq. And the tens of thousands more who are war-wounded are hidden from view by this supposedly free press. In the U.S. there are few photos or videos of the tens of thousands of Iraqis dead and wounded.

First and foremost, the politicians in Washington bear responsibility for all this blood. But the media are nothing but hypocrites. When it really counted, when it might have made a difference, they simply repeated the lies.