Sunday, November 27, 2005
a project of the Nation Institute
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Tomgram: A Cult of Presidential Power
The Unrestrained President
By Tom Engelhardt
As 2006 begins, we seem to be at a not-completely-unfamiliar crossroads in the long history of the American imperial presidency. It grew up, shedding presidential constraints, in the post-World War II years as part of the rise of the national security state and the military-industrial complex.
It reached its constraint-less apogee with Richard Nixon's presidency and what became known as the Watergate scandal -- an event marked by Nixon's attempt to create his own private national security apparatus which he directed to secretly commit various high crimes and misdemeanors for him. It was as close as we came -- until now -- to a presidential coup d'etat that might functionally have abrogated the Constitution.
In those years, the potential dangers of an unfettered presidency (so apparent to the nation's founding fathers) became obvious to a great many Americans. As now, a failed war helped drag the President's plans down and, in the case of Nixon, ended in personal disgrace and resignation, as well as in a brief resurgence of congressional oversight activity. All this mitigated, and modestly deflected, the growth trajectory of the imperial presidency -- for a time.
The "cabal," as Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's chief of staff at the State Department, has called Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and various of their neoconish pals, stewed over this for years, along with a group of lawyers who were prepared, once the moment came, to give a sheen of legality to any presidential act.
The group of them used the post-9/11 moment to launch a wholesale campaign to recapture the "lost" powers of the imperial presidency, attempting not, as in the case of Nixon, to create an alternate national security apparatus but to purge and capture the existing one for their private purposes.
Under George Bush, Dick Cheney, and their assorted advisers, acolytes, and zealots, a virtual cult of unconstrained presidential power has been constructed, centered around the figure of Bush himself.
While much has been made of feverish Christian fundamentalist support for the President, the real religious fervor in this administration has been almost singularly focused on the quite un-Christian attribute of total earthly power.
Typical of the fierce ideologues and cultists now in the White House is Cheney's new Chief of Staff David Addington. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank described him this way back in 2004 (when he was still Cheney's "top lawyer"):
"[A] principal author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects... a prime advocate of arguments supporting the holding of terrorism suspects without access to courts[,] Addington also led the fight with Congress and environmentalists over access to information about corporations that advised the White House on energy policy. He was instrumental in the series of fights with the Sept. 11 commission and its requests for information... Even in a White House known for its dedication to conservative philosophy, Addington is known as an ideologue, an adherent of an obscure philosophy called the unitary executive theory that favors an extraordinarily powerful president."
For these cultists of an all-powerful presidency, the holy war, the "crusade" to be embarked upon was, above all, aimed at creating a President accountable to no one, overseen by no one, and restricted by no other force or power in his will to act as he saw fit.
And so, in this White House, all roads have led back to one issue: How to press ever harder at the weakening boundaries of presidential power. This is why, when critics concentrate on any specific issue or set of administration acts, no matter how egregious or significant, they invariably miss the point.
The issue, it turns out, is never primarily -- to take just two areas of potentially illegal administration activity -- torture or warrantless surveillance. Though each of them had value and importance to top administration officials, they were nonetheless primarily the means to an end.
This is why the announcement of (and definition of) the "global war on terror" almost immediately after the 9/11 attacks was so important.
It was to be a "war" without end. No one ever attempted to define what "victory" might actually consist of, though we were assured that the war itself would, like the Cold War, last generations. Even the recent sudden presidential announcement that we will now settle only for "complete victory" in Iraq is, in this context, a distinctly limited goal because Iraq has already been defined as but a single "theater" (though a "central" one) in a larger war on terror.
A war without end, of course, left the President as a commander-in-chief-without-end and it was in such a guise that the acolytes of that "obscure philosophy" of total presidential power planned to claim their "inherent" constitutional right to do essentially anything. (Imagine what might have happened if their invasion of Iraq had been a success!)
Having established their global war on terror, and so their "war powers," in the fall of 2001, top administration officials then moved remarkably quickly to the outer limits of power -- by plunging into the issue of torture.
After all, if you can establish a presidential right to order torture (no matter how you manage to redefine it) as well as to hold captives under a category of warfare dredged up from the legal dustbin of history in prisons especially established to be beyond the reach of the law or the oversight of anyone but those under your command, you've established a presidential right to do just about anything imaginable.
While the get-tough aura of torture may indeed have appealed to some of these worshippers of power, what undoubtedly appealed to them most was the moving of the presidential goalposts, the changing of the rules.
From Abu Ghraib on, the results of all this have been obvious enough, but one crucial aspect of such unfettered presidential power goes regularly unmentioned.
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Typically, when faced with a problem, the first thing Bush administration officials do is reach for their dictionaries to pretzel and torture words into whatever shape best suits them. Then they declare themselves simply to be following precedent (which turns out, of course, to be whatever they've wanted to do all along). In this way, in the famous torture memos that flowed from the White House Counsel's office, the Justice Department, and the Pentagon, the meaning of "torture" was at one point in 2002 redefined into near nonexistence ("must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death") and then made dependent on the mind and intent of the torturer. As a result, "torture" became, by definition, a policy we didn't engage in even as we waterboarded sus! pects in our global network of CIA-run (or borrowed) secret prisons. In a similar fashion, this administration has managed to redefine aggressive war, kidnapping, the President's powers to detain both citizens and non-citizens, assassination, the meaning of various international agreements and American laws, and the Constitution itself. Then, definitions in hand, administration officials have marched defiantly into the world, armed to the teeth, and done exactly what they pleased.
Just this week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice headed for a Europe whose various publics (and media) are up in arms over CIA behavior -- the use of airports, military bases, and former compounds or prisons of the old Soviet Gulag to facilitate illegal detentions, kidnappings (called "extraordinary renditions"), and the torture and abuse of various terror suspects. Some of these suspects have been held for long periods and abused in numerous ways, only to be found innocent of any criminal acts whatsoever. This has, it seems, become common enough to gain a name of its own among CIA cognoscenti -- "erroneous renditions." Such high-handed actions, undertaken in a spirit of impunity, are today making their way to various European courts and bodies of inquiry.
Our Secretary of State, on the eve of her departure, finally offered an administration response to this and, for instance, to the recent revelation that the CIA had sent 437 flights (assumedly on various rendition tasks) through German airspace since 2001 -- some certainly carrying captured or kidnapped "ghost detainees" to secret prisons elsewhere on Earth. She essentially said: "Trust us…"; offered implicit threats to release information on what European officials may have known about our illegal activities to their angry publics ("It is up to those governments and their citizens to decide if they wish to work with us to prevent terrorist attacks against their own country or other countries, and decide how much sensitive information they can make public. They have a sovereign right to make that choice."); and emphasized that this administration a! lways acts within the law and, as our President insists, simply does not torture -- even while our Vice President and other top officials lobby vigorously against Senator John McCain's anti-torture amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill reiterating that it is the law of the land not to offer those in our custody "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment."
In a classic case of we're-innocent-and-anyway-they-did-it, Rice on departure admitted to the use of "rendition" and then painted it as a time-tested technique of practically all governments on the planet. "Torture," she added, "is a term that is defined by law. We rely on our law to govern our operations. The United States does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances… The United States does not transport, and has not transported, detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture. The United States does not use the airspace or the airports of any country for the purpose of transporting a detainee to a country where he or she will be tortured." These are, of course, outright lies -- except according to the Bush administration definitions of such things -- and typical of the beha! vior of its officials.
In fact, those officials seem to carry handy-dandy dictionaries in their heads -- and so regularly redefine reality on the run to suit their immediate needs. How about, to take a recent lighthearted example, our Secretary of Defense Donald ("I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?") Rumsfeld, who is a walking redefinition of just about anything. According to his own account, he had a revelation worthy of the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary over Thanksgiving weekend and sent a memo around the Pentagon suggesting the eradication of the Iraqi "insurgency" by wiping out the I-word itself. Urging journalists to "consult their dictionaries," the SecDef told them: "Over the weekend, I thought to myself, 'You know, that [term "insurgent"] gives them a greater legitimacy than they seem to! merit… It was an epiphany." Instead of the label "insurgents," he suggested, why not use "enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government" or ELIG?
Behind such verbal shenanigans, as Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith make clear below, lies a deeply serious attempt to pull our government fully into the shadows, to make it a black hole into which vast amounts of information and power of every sort will flow, and out of which nothing is to come but Bush definitions of reality. This is chilling indeed. Brecher and Smith (along with co-editor Jill Cutler) have produced an indispensable paperback, In the Name of Democracy, American War Crimes in Iraq and Beyond, which collects a chilling set of documents from the frontlines of administration illegality and offers striking essays about the lengths to which this administration has been willing to go and the degree to which we are living under a criminal regime.
War Crimes Made Easy
How the Bush Administration Legalized Intelligence Deceptions, Assassinations, and Aggressive War
By Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith
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The Untold Story of America’s Intelligence Conspiracy
Scott Ritter, former US weapons inspector in Iraq.
With an introduction by Seymour Hersh.
From Press Release for this new book:
Scott Ritter is the straight-talking former marine officer whom the CIA wants to silence.
After the 1991 Gulf war Ritter helped lead the UN weapons inspections of Iraq, and found himself at the centre of a dangerous game between the Iraqi and US regimes.
As Ritter reveals in this explosive book, Washington was only ever interested in disarmament as a tool for its own agenda.
Operating in a fog of espionage and counter-espionage, Ritter and his team were determined to find out the truth about Iraq’s WMD. The CIA were equally determined to stop them.
For the truth, we now know, was that Iraq was playing a deadly game of double-bluff, and actually had no WMD. But to have revealed this would have derailed America’s drive for regime change.
Iraq Confidential charts the disillusionment of a staunch patriot who came to realise that his own government sought to undermine effective arms control in the Middle East.
Ritter shows us a world of deceit and betrayal, in which nothing is as it seems.
A host of characters from Mossad, MI6 and the CIA pepper this powerful narrative, which contains revelations that will permanently affect the ongoing debates about Iraq.
From: Jeanie Lucas
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Tomgram: Michael Schwartz, Ten Ways to Argue about the War
What a couple of weeks in Iraq (and at home): Withdrawal was suddenly on everyone's lips, while tragedy and absurdity were piling up like some vast, serial car wreck of event and emotion. Before a massed audience of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy, our President announced a new war goal beyond finding weapons of mass destruction, bringing freedom to Iraqis, or liberating the whole of the Middle East; something more modest this time -- "complete victory" -- over whomever. In the meantime, ten Marines died in a trap near Fallujah. Remember Fallujah? The city we literally destroyed in order to save it and then didn't quite get around to rebuilding as the Sunni Triangle's first safe haven from insurgency a! nd terrorism? Now, it's a danger zone again and still significantly in rubble. In these same weeks, the use of white phosphorus, a fierce burning agent, back in November 2004 to force rebels in Fallujah out of their defenses suddenly became a global news story and a scandal (though its use was actually known at the time); the Europeans began demanding explanations from the Bush administration for the kidnapping, transport, and secret imprisonment of suspected terrorists on their territory; a torture chamber/detention center run by the Interior Ministry but connected to the militia of the leading Shiite religious party in the Iraqi government was uncovered by American troops; it was evidently part of a long known-about "ghost network" of such centers linked to government and party-sponsored (and possibly U.S. backed or trained) death squads intent on intimidating or cleansing the Sunni ! neighborhoods of Iraq's cities. Ever more American war planes were reportedly taking to Iraqi skies and more American bombs falling on Iraq's towns and cities. Saddam reappeared in court, his hair dyed black, complaining and carrying a Koran like the good religious man he surely isn't; and it was revealed that, in the process of bringing freedom to Iraqis, a Pentagon-hired "business intelligence" firm had done its darnedest to turn a burgeoning Iraqi free press into a paid-for press. This was done in the struggle to conquer what is known in the trade as Iraq's "information battlespace." Not only that, but the story took us a full, ridiculous spin of the dial back to the earliest moments of our conquest of Iraq. At that time, administration officials arrived in Baghdad so filled! with hubris that it didn't occur to them to bring along anyone who knew anything about Iraq, no less actual translators. In the case of our newspaper caper, clearly a psyops-for-dummies operation, some of the paid-for stories were written by American servicemen and then translated into Arabic. These must have been truly convincing accounts! (Imagine the opposite: Iraqi soldiers in camps in the U.S. hired to write articles translated into English to help win the war for American "information battlespace.") And believe me, that's only a bit of the week or two that was.
The President spoke of "progress" in Iraq, but who could possibly believe him at this point? A majority of Americans clearly no longer do, but a minority -- about 36% according to the polls -- seem to be hanging in there, though perhaps with difficulty, like worried Republican Congressman from Georgia, Phil Gingrey. While fretting about re-election, he was nonetheless quoted in the Washington Post, saying, "The light is there at the end of the tunnel. People need to see it." Again, you don't know whether to laugh or cry. In what follows, Michael Schwartz takes the arguments that remain for war supporters and that still can confound antiwar people and answers them one by one. Tom
Arguing about the WarThe Top Ten Reasons for Staying in (Leaving) IraqBy Michael Schwartz
I often receive emails -- pro and con -- about my postings on the war in Iraq, and I try to respond to any substantive questions or critiques offered. But when I received an email recently entitled "10 Questions" in response to a Tomdispatch commentary detailing the arguments for immediate withdrawal, I must admit my heart sank -- the questions were familiar, but the answers were complex and I was in no mood to spend the time needed to respond properly.
After a couple of days, however, I began to warm to the idea of writing short but pointed responses to these common criticisms of antiwar positions because, I realized, they are the bread and butter of daily Iraq discourse in our country. When the war comes up in the media or in casual conversation, these are the issues that are raised by those who think we have to "stay the course" -- and among those who oppose the war, these are the lurking, unspoken questions that haunt our discussions. So here are my best brief answers to these key issues in the crucial, ongoing debate over Iraq.
"I read your article on withdrawal of American troops," my correspondent began, "and questioned the lack of discussion of the following…" (His comments are in bold.)
1. Nothing was mentioned about improvements in Iraq (elections, water and energy, schools). No Saddam to fear! Water and energy delivery as well as schools are worse off than before the U.S. invasion. Ditto for the state of hospitals (and medical supplies), highways, and oil production. Elections are a positive change, but the elected government does not have more than a semblance of actual sovereignty, and therefore the Iraqi people have no power to make real choices about their future. One critical example: The Shiite/Kurdish political coalition now in power ran on a platform whose primary promise was that, if elected, they would set and enforce a timetable for American withdrawal. As soon as they took power, they reneged on this promise (apparently under pressure from the US). They have also proved quit! e incapable of fulfilling their other campaign promises about restoring services and rebuilding the country; and for that reason (as well as others), their constituents (primarily the Shia) are becoming ever more disillusioned. In the most recent polls, Shia Iraqis now are about 70% in favor of U.S. withdrawal.
Click here to read more of this dispatch.
Where does he get them from?!
"Regarding the Vietnam war with the USA, did you know that the US boys were involved in heavy firing and life threatening shooting for a period of 240 days during their 13 month duty.
This is 6 times more than for the US Army during WW 2.
Did you also know that at any moment during the period 1965 / 1973 there were statistically at least 115 airplanes or helicopters in the air: incredible."
U.S. used napalm in Falluja
By David Hoskins
Published Nov 17, 2005 10:24 PM
New evidence came to light earlier this month that confirmed reports in Workers World newspaper and elsewhere that the U.S. military had used internationally banned chemical weapons, including white phosphorus and napalm, during its November 2004 attack on Falluja.
The U.S. government adamantly denied these reports at the time. Reports of the alleged U.S. war crimes were notably absent from the pages of most Western newspapers and there was virtually no discussion of the issue on cable news stations or talk radio. Al Jazeera’s facility in Iraq was forcibly shut down in an attempt to stifle journalistic inquiry into these reports.
Now, almost a year later, Italian state television RAI has produced a documentary confirming that U.S. forces in fact used white phosphorus and MK77 Mod 5—a napalm derivative—in Falluja. And the Guardian of London has called Falluja an atrocity on the scale of My Lai and Guernica, estimating 7,000 civilian dead.
While MK77 Mod 5 uses a formula consisting of a smaller concentration of benzene, the effects are exactly the same as napalm.
The use of these incendiary weapons is a violation of the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.
Workers World newspaper had published an article in its Dec. 2, 2004, issue based on a talk by Workers World Party Secre tariat member Sara Flounders in which she described how the use of illicit chemical weapons, poison gas and bunker busters had virtually destroyed the city of Falluja.
Jeff Englehart, a former soldier in the U.S. 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, says in the Italian documentary that he saw “burned bodies, burned children and burned women.”
Entitled “Falluja: The Hidden Massacre,” the film contains video footage showing the bodies of civilian women and children following the U.S. air and artillery bombardment.
The innocent victims appear to have been burned to the bone. Others have partially melted flesh hanging from their bodies. These chemical weapons primarily affect the flesh of their targets. The evidence leaves no doubt that the victims were unarmed and in civilian clothing at the time of their deaths.
Describing the United States’ intention to target civilians in Falluja, Englehart states that he was told by military superiors going into Falluja that “every single person that was walking, talking, breathing was [an] enemy combatant. As such every single person that was walking down the street or in a house was a target.”
Englehart confirms that soldiers had orders to shoot children as young as 10 years old.
The use of white phosphorus and napalm in Falluja is just another example of criminal action and conspiracy to hide the truth.
It fits into a domestic and international agenda to reshape world politics in favor of the extreme right wing of the U.S. ruling class. The breakup of the Soviet Union emboldened the most conservative sector of U.S. imperialism and its allies to try to assume for themselves absolute control of the world.
Recent news reports have provided myriad instances of criminality, corruption and conspiracy. Since 2004 alone, troops directed by the Bush administration have been caught committing torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, desecrating the Koran in the concentration camp in Guantanamo in occupied Cuba and now using internationally banned chemical weapons in Falluja.
The U.S. government first lied in 2002-2003, claiming the existence of massive amounts of chemical weapons in Iraqi hands, to justify the invasion of Iraq. The same U.S. government then turned its own arsenal of chemical weapons against innocent civilians in Falluja and has now been caught lying in an attempt to cover up its criminal actions.
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By Paddy Colligan
Published Nov 26, 2005 10:08 PM
In mid-November a delegation from the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin arrived in the United States, beginning a 10-city tour with meetings and press events in New York City.
Theirs is a powerful story of continued suffering by the people of Vietnam, including two members of the delegation, caused by exposure to Agent Orange/Dioxin.
The Paris Peace Accords signed in 1973 by the Nixon Administration contained a provision for the United States to contribute $3 billion toward healing the wounds of war and to the post-war reconstruction of Vietnam. Although this provision gave the Vietnamese the legal right to restitution, the U.S. government has never taken any legal or moral responsibility to aid the peoples of Vietnam and neighboring countries in restoring their lands that were poisoned by chemical weapons.
VAVA is appealing for support from people in the United States for its lawsuit to achieve justice and compensation directly from the U.S. corporations that manufactured the deadly herbicides.
The delegation’s visit is organized by Veterans for Peace and the
Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign
(See www.vn-agentorange.org for details.)
Dr. Nguyen Trong Nhan, a former president of the Vietnam Red Cross and now a director of the VAVA, heads the delegation. The other members are military veterans Dang Thi Hong Nhut and Ho Sy Hai.
The U.S. government denied a visa to a fourth member, Nguyen Muoi, the 22-year-old son of a veteran from the South Vietnam army (ARVN) who had been exposed to dioxin. Born after the war, Muoi suffers from spina bifida, a neural disorder common among children of dioxin-exposed males.
Hong Nhut was a member of the “long-haired army”—women who fought to liberate Vietnam. She was captured, tortured and imprisoned for seven years, one of which was spent in the notorious underground “tiger cages.” She lived in areas subjected to defoliation and had several miscarriages after this exposure.
Hong’s contribution to the program was to perform a beautiful Vietnamese song about the victims of Agent Orange.
At a Nov. 16 meeting at the Community Church in New York, Dave Kline, national president of Veterans for Peace, welcomed the delegation. Kline described Vietnam veterans’ gradual realization that they had been poisoned by something terribly toxic in Vietnam. He described the years of struggle to force the U.S. government to admit what had been done and to get some restitution for the affected veterans.
Kline recognized the human cost to Vietnam, calling on all people of conscience to demand that the United States stop using weapons of mass destruction.
He linked the people of Vietnam with the U.S. veterans, demanding, “Justice for all Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange,” and, “Justice for all Agent Orange victims.”
Ravages of dioxin
A videotape, “Agent Orange/Dioxin and the Right to Life,” presented evidence of the ravages of dioxin poisoning. Even audience members familiar with the chemical’s effects were shocked and angered at these images. Most victims shown were children born decades after the end of the war. The video, showing clearly the horror of this legacy of war, will be made available for distribution in the United States.
Dr. Nhan, who works with Agent Orange victims in his country, reported on their hardship and suffering. He pointed to Washington’s dual standard. The U.S. government recognizes 13 medical conditions stemming from exposure to Agent Orange/Dioxin affecting U.S. veterans. But Washington denies any connection or culpability with regard to the millions of Vietnamese who were “the direct targets of the spraying, and who are living in areas that were sprayed and are eating the food from the sprayed land.”
Even though the war ended 30 years ago in a Vietnamese victory, “the war hasn’t ended in the bodies of the victims in Vietnam,” he said. The Vietnamese aspired for peace and a cooperative resolution to the problem of Agent Orange, he explained, but the goodwill of the Vietnamese people was not met.
“Tens of thousands of victims have died. Tens of thousands of others are dying. There was no choice but to file a lawsuit against the U.S. chemical companies.”
Dr. Nhan said that he believes the American people love justice. “I will never forget images of anti-war demonstrations, of veterans throwing back medals and ribbons,” he said. He recognized that “Americans have feelings for justice and fairness in the U.S. and other countries.”
He spoke of his hope that “you will give support to us” and that the Court of Appeals will give justice to Vietnamese victims when the lawsuit appeal is heard in the spring of 2006.
From 1966 to 1969, Ho Sy Hai lived and drove along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. He told how the Trail was a favorite target of the U.S. Air Force because soldiers and supplies moved on the Trail to the southern part of the country.
On the Ho Chi Minh Trail
“Airplanes sprayed some substance to destroy the leaves of the forest and to destroy villages,” he said. “I had to live in those conditions, eating vegetables, fish, and animals that were sprayed.”
After the war Hai returned to his village, married, and tried to start a family. His wife had several miscarriages. Of the babies she bore, one died at age 5 from cancer, two are deaf and unable to speak, and one has a mental disorder.
Hai also spoke for the many victims with similar problems, including diabetes, skin rashes, prostate cancer, and disorders of the digestive system, including the liver and intestines. He called for support for the lawsuit against the chemical manufacturers.
Jonathan Moore, one of the lawyers in the lawsuit against the chemical companies including Dow, Monsanto, Union Carbide and Diamond Shamrock, spoke of “a scandal of incredible proportions — that this country has forgotten what happened in Vietnam. This campaign has to bring to the attention of all Americans the unfinished business in Vietnam, the millions harmed by dioxin, exposed by companies who, knowing it was lethal and a carcinogen, sold it” for use in defoliating populated areas.
According to Moore, over a period of 10 years the U.S. military sprayed 47 million liters of Agent Orange and other defoliants. The spraying contaminated 12 percent of the surface of Vietnam, an area the size of New Jersey in a country about the size of Texas plus Oklahoma.
There are still “hot spots” with such high levels of dioxin that people cannot live there.
Jose Vasquez of Iraq Veterans Against the War spoke as an active-duty military resister. His father is a Vietnam veteran suffering from Agent-Orange-related health problems. Vasquez refuses assignment to Iraq because of the human-rights violations there, specifically the U.S. use of white phosphorous and depleted uranium.
Bring the tour to your city or campus
The Campaign has some flexibility in its scheduling. Cities it will travel to after Nov. 25 include Raleigh/Durham, N.C., Chicago, Milwaukee, Sante Fe, N.M., Portland, Ore., Seattle, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
The delegation will leave for Vietnam on Dec. 13.
Those able to arrange public meetings or media interviews to spread this important information are invited to contact the organizers at
In town today is one of the world’s biggest war criminals. He is here to tell the Australian government the expectations of the US self-appointed global policeman, to brief the Deputy-Sheriff.
Calling Rumsfeld an international war criminal is not a piece of rhetoric – the evidence is clear and damning of his career as a bureaucrat of torture and pre-emptive war.
Rumsfeld is the director of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which has so-far killed tens of thousands of Iraqis as well as over 2000 US and 100 British troops. That invasion has advanced the barbaric program of refining the technology of mass murder, such as the use of depleted uranium, which has been tested in Australia.
The Nuremberg war crimes trials after WW2 established the principle of command responsibility – that no senior Nazi officer, bureaucrat or politician could avoid responsibility for mass murder by pointing the finger at the underlings that actually killed the Nazis victims. The leaders who knew or should have known of what their subordinates where doing were just as guilty as those from whom direct orders to kill could be traced.
So Rumsfeld is responsible for what his subordinates have done – such as the sickening tortures and human degradation of Abu Ghraib, which have also occurred in other places in Iraq, in Afghanistan, at Guantanamo Bay, and now it seems in other parts of the world where the US has sub-contacted torture. And does anyone doubt that such barbarities continue today, hidden from view?
But unlike Nuremberg, the only people convicted over Abu Ghraib were underlings—low-rankers like Lindy England, brutal and racist no doubt, but hardly chiefly responsible. That chief responsibility goes up the line, expanding as it rises, to Rumsfeld and his boss Bush. But Rumsfeld and his fellow neo-con V-P Dick Cheney are most responsible because they gave the signal by saying that the detainees in the US prisons weren’t covered by the Geneva Convention—weren’t prisoners of war. This was a green light to US soldiers and prison guards everyone to torture and degrade as they pleased—all rules were dropped.
This is the record of Donald Rumsfeld—and it goes on.
This man has a long record as a bureaucrat of war; he was in Richard Nixon’s sordid government and US Secretary of Defence under Gerald Ford. Then he took that familiar US path, that interweaving of corporate, political and bureaucratic office, by becoming an executive in a series of transnationals.
As a representative of a pharmaceuticals company and a Reagan presidential envoy he met and cemented relationships with Saddam Hussein while his government secretly sold chemical weapons to Saddam for use against the Iranians (and later against his own people).
This latter is one of the indictments against Saddam Hussein at present—and he should be tried, but by the International Court of Justice, not by a US puppet court. And Donald Rumsfeld should be standing along-side or in front of him in the dock!
Rumsfeld’s career goes beyond these specific murderous events however. He is a leading neo-con—and these are very dangerous people, dangerous to the future health of this planet and the human race. Their plan, called “Project for a New American Century”, is just that—a plan for this new century to be dominated by Transnational and US corporate interests and the military muscle and political hegemony to ensure it.
And they mean dominate—not discuss, not persuade, not enlist by peaceful acquiescence in American aims. Oh yes, if you are so spineless as to submit to perpetual MacDonald wages, Transnational destruction of the environment, US bases and subservient local pollies, perhaps you may be allowed to enrol in this new world.
But be warned, this is not about the interests of the people.
When I speak of American domination, we are not talking about the working and middle classes of the US. How Rumsfeld, Bush and the other neo-cons regard those people was graphically illustrated by the fate of New Orleans—let them swim or starve or drown, and then let Halliburton KBR rebuild the city for the needs of the wealthy. Don’t complain about your National Guard being crippled - we need it and its equipment to better enforce our rape and pillage of Iraq and its oil, and Afghanistan and the gas to its north.
No, the New American century is to be in the interests of the corporate and political elite to which Rumsfeld belongs—and it will be enforced by military bases, by invasions and their threats, by economic coercion, and by enrolling subordinate countries like Australia in the project.
Of course plans often go astray, and have the opposite effect to that intended, and that’s what’s happened in Iraq. In all their imperial arrogance, Rumsfeld, Bush and all rolled into Iraq over the bodies of thousands, seized the oil-fields, and declared ’Mission Accomplished’- perhaps the biggest political miscalculation since Harold MacMillan’s ’Peace in our time’!
Because the Iraqi people said no—you aren’t stealing our resources, you aren’t carving up our country like a joint of meat between your Halliburtons and your Bechtels and your other corporate thieves, and we won’t accept your puppet governments installed by bogus elections.
They have fought back, and 2000 plus US deaths and thousands of casualties have ignited the American peace movement, and alerted American citizens to this illegal and unjust war founded on lies and deceptions and manipulations of fear.
The Vietnam war (remember Rumsfeld was in government then) ended MOSTLY because the Vietnamese fought them to a standstill.
But it was greatly aided not only by the US and global peace movement but by the RITA—the Resistance in the Army. You can’t fight an imperial war when your soldiers won’t co-operate.
This is starting to happen again, and Donald must be having nightmares. Because they haven’t dared to bring back the draft, this is a so-called ‘volunteer’ war—volunteers from poverty or misguided patriotism.
But even with this, the recruiting taps for cannon fodder are drying up fast in the US, and a President on 37% approval is in a bind about the tremendous unpopularity of bringing back the draft.
They’re in a bind anyway however—the war can’t be won, but they can’t withdraw from the second biggest oil reserves in the world, and next door to the largest. Any new Iraqi government after such a withdrawal would quickly be like Vietnam - dead-set against the US and its interests. So they have a tiger by the tail.
Their response is to try to enrol others to do more of their dirty work for them—their puppets in Iraq, and their lapdogs elsewhere—of whom some of the most loyal are here in Australia.
That is what Rumsfeld is here for—more use of training bases in Australia for US troops, more political support from Howard’s faithful rat-pack, and more corporate access to Australia’s resources and workforce for Halliburton KBR and the others.
He is being fawned on and his ego is being flattered and his will is being catered to that Australia is behind him, no worries, Sir! by Downer and Hill and the other brown-noses.
His visit coincides with the imminent passage of the ’terror laws’- they are part of the agenda, to cow and divide Australians to better enrol this country in the Project for a new American Century. They are not needed to protect Australia, and most people know it—but they are still insecure, subject to manipulation of their fears and knowledge gaps.
We must give a lead, and reject the atmosphere in place before these laws are even passed, demand and assert our right to protest, to say to Rumsfeld YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE, CRIMINAL, JUSTIFIER OF TORTURE, PLANNER OF MASS-MURDER, AND YOUR AUSTRALIAN COURTIERS ARE LYING TO YOU ABOUT THIS COUNTRY—WE ARE NOT LAPDOGS, AND WE REJECT YOU AND ALL YOU STAND FOR!
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by Gareth Porter
Znet October 22, 2005
To understand just how tenuous the U.S. position in Iraq is at the moment,we have only to look at the way Basra, Iraq's second largest city, in the solidly Shiite South slipped out of the control of occupation forces last month.
The basic facts of the anti-British uprising in Basra have been well documented.
On September 19, Iraqi police arrested two British militaryintelligence agents disguised as Arabs. The British command went to the police station where they were being detained to demand their return. Rebuffed by the police there, it took the law into its own hands, using armoured vehicles to break down the wall of an Iraqi government police compound in order to free the two prisoners.
In response to the call of the Mahdi Army of radical Shiite cleric Moqtadral-Sadr, hundreds of people gathered at the police station to protest that turned into a six-hour battle with the British troops. The crowd kicked and punched the British and threw stones, metal bars, Molotov cocktails and burning tires at their armoured troop carriers, setting two of them on fire. The British say they killed four people and injured 44. An Iraqi judge who was there says nine Iraqis were killed, and 14 injured.
A crucial factor in Basra's sudden political transformation is that the local security forces and Shiite political leadership in Basra turned against the British and sided with the Mahdi Army.
Through the six hours of violence, not a single Iraqi policeman came to the aid of the beleaguered British forces. Two days later, hundreds of policemen marched through downtown Basra waving pistols and AK-47s and shouting "no to occupation."
After meeting with the protesters, the 41 members of the provincial council voted unanimously to cut off all cooperation with British forces because of the "irresponsible aggression on a government facility." The council demanded an apology and full compensation for families of those killed and wounded by the British. And it is still demanding that the two spies be turned over to Iraqi authorities.
Shiite responsiveness to al-Sadr's appeals to oppose British actions symbolizing the loss of Iraqi independence should have come as no surprise. For a year and a half, it has been clear that Moqtada al-Sadr has enjoyed widespread support among Shiites because of his anti-occupation stance. Sadr's popularity had skyrocketed in April 2004, when the Mahdi Army challenged foreign occupation troops in eight different Shiite cities,including Basra.
According to an article by counterinsurgency specialists Jeffrey White and Ryan Philips in Jane's Intelligence Review, polling by an Iraqi research organization showed that only one percent of those surveyed had supported him in December 2003, but 68 percent supported him when his forces were fighting U.S. troops in April 2004.
The stunning transformation of Basra from a secure rear area for U.S. and British troops into a center of anti-occupation agitation reveals the utter weakness of the Shiite political base on which the United States must now rely to sustain its occupation of the country.
After the election in January, according to senior police officials in Baghdad, the police force in the city was under the control of militant Shiite Badr Organization,which is aligned with the government of Prime Minister Jafari. But the loyalty of many militiamen in Basra to the Badr Organization proved in the end to be very weak. By the time of the protests, the Mahdi Army was clearly predominant within the police force.
The strategic significance of events in Basra becomes clearer if it is compared with a parallel event in the Vietnam War.
In 1966, an anti-government and anti-U.S. Buddhist "Struggle Movement", loosely aligned with the Communist forces, carried out an uprising and seized power in Hue, the ancient capital and center of Buddhist agitation. The U.S.command responded by airlifting South Vietnamese government battalions into Hue to reassert military control.
In Iraq, however, there were no government units available to send into Basra to take back the city. And neither the British nor the Americans had enough troops to impose direct control on Basra by force.
Comments to the press by British officers in Basra make it clear that the command understands that the city slipped out of control because the occupation forces could not trust the very people who they thought were their loyal allies.
The U.S. command, meanwhile, refuses to acknowledge publicly that it faces a powerful anti-occupation movement in the South.
Two weeks after the Basra uprising, Gen. George Casey, the commander of U.S.forces in Iraq, went so far as to claim that "lately" Moktadr al-Sadr had become "part of the solution" in Iraq.
If the U.S. command really believes that, it may be in for a nasty surprise. Moqtadr al-Sadr has yet not played all of his cards. He still has loyal followers all across the South and as well as in his primary political base in Baghdad's Sadr City.
What happened in Basra may be a preview of a strategy aimed at causing the collapse of the U.S. political position in one city after another.
Gareth Porter is a historian and an analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus.
His latest book is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2005).
Article at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=8978
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To read more dispatches, go to tomdispatch.com
Tomgram: Jonathan Schell, Welcome to Camp Quagmire
On the cusp of that most American of holidays, Jonathan Schell offers us a "tour" of the American empire -- the global Pax Americana that wasn't -- and asks a simple question: Where exactly are the monuments of that empire? If it is now threatened with collapse, what exactly did it build?
I was Schell's editor on his book The Unconquerable World (published in the spring of 2003), and so, well before the Bush adminstration invaded Iraq, I had no doubt that our attempt to occupy an oil-rich land in the heart of the Middle East was bound to fail disastrously. No one who read Schell's exploration of the last three centuries of organized violence (and the hesitant birth of non-violent possibilities on our planet) could have assumed less. He and I often discussed the nature of the American empire and even exchanged letters on the subject at Tomdispatch back in early 2004 (Jonathan Schell on the empire that fell as it rose).
For his latest Nation magazine "Letter from Ground Zero" -- which the editors of that publication have been kind enough to let Tomdispatch post -- I can't think of a better introduction than some eerily prophetic passages from The Unconquerable World.
(Then, when you've also read his latest Nation column, take a brief whirl with me past various American imperial ziggurats and ruins.) While assessing the Bush administration's urge for global domination and its belief in what he had already dubbed "disarmament wars" meant to stop nuclear proliferation on the planet, Schell wrote:
"Even if we suppose that the United States will complete the transition from a republic to an empire, there are powerful reasons to believe that it will fail to realize its global ambitions, whether idealistic or self-interested. Any imperial plan in the twenty-first century tilts against what have so far proved to be the two most powerful forces of the modern age: the spread of scientific knowledge and the resolve of peoples to reject foreign rule and take charge of their own destinies. If the history of the last two centuries is a guide, neither can be bombed out of existence…
"It's difficult to believe that the passion for self determination will be any easier to suppress than the spread of destructive technology… Historically, imperial rule has rested on three kinds of domination -- military, economic, and political. The United States enjoys unequivocal superiority in only one of these domains -- the military, and here only in the conventional sphere…
"Most important, in the political arena, the United States is weak, precisely because in the contemporary world military force no longer translates easily into political rule. ‘Covenants, without the sword, are but words,' Hobbes said. Since then, the world has learned that swords without covenants are but empty bloodshed. The Romans in ancient times were able to convert military victories into lasting political power. The United States today cannot.
In the political arena, the lesson of the world revolt -- that winning military victories may sometimes be easy but building political institutions in foreign lands is hard, often impossible -- still obtains. The nation so keenly interested in ‘regime change' has small interest in ‘nation-building' and less capacity to carry it out.
The United States is mistrusted, often hated, around the world. If it embarks on a plan of imperial domination, it will be hated still more. Can cruise missiles build nations? Does power st! ill flow from the barrel of a gun -- or from a B-2 bomber? Can the world in the twenty-first century really be ruled from 35,000 feet? Modern peoples have the will to resist and the means to do so. Imperialism without politics is a naive imperialism. In our time, force can win a battle or two but politics is destiny."
Now set out to tour the failed imperium with Jonathan Schell as your guide.
The Fall of the One-Party Empire
By Jonathan Schell
Click here to read more of this dispatch.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
The beginning of history—again
Remember the end of history? Once the USSR fell in 1990, there wasn’t supposed to be anything but capitalism forever after. This month marks 88 years since the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and exactly 100 years since the first Russian Revolution in 1905, which brought a new political formation into the world: workers’ soviets, or councils.".... Now, there is talk of "socialism of the 21st century"!
U.S. offensive kills many civilians in Iraq
By John Catalinotto
Fragging: what goes around, comes around
It is no surprise then, that the Pentagon’s brutal policies are coming back to haunt them.
In a hearing in Kuwait on Nov. 1 and 2, Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez was charged with the murder of West Point graduate Capt. Philip Esposito and 1st Lt. Louis E. Allen at Forward Operating Base Danger, near Tikrit, Iraq, on June 7. Martinez may face the death penalty.
The deaths were first reported as the result of fire from Iraqi resistance forces. According to expert witnesses, however, the fatal wounds were more consistent with injuries from a Claymore anti-personnel mine and fragmentation grenades.
Soldiers killing their officers with fragmentation grenades became a regular event during the war in Vietnam. Between 1969 and 1971 alone, the Army reported 600 separate “fragging” incidents, which caused 82 deaths and 651 injuries.
It was not only personal grievances against selected officers that motivated the Vietnam-era fragging, but the overall anti-war political climate and the unwillingness of African-American troops to tolerate racism. Officers who were considered too aggressive in moving troops into battle or who had treated enlisted soldiers in a racist way were especially at risk.
Though a witness testified that Martinez said he hated Esposito, no explicit political or personal reason was given to explain Martinez’s alleged motive.
Attorneys for the accused argued that at the time of the deaths, the U.S. was not officially at war—President George W. Bush had announced over a year earlier that the war with Iraq was over. Their motion that Martinez be tried in a civilian court was denied.
The first fragging of the U.S. aggression against Iraq took place just before the March 20, 2003, invasion. Last April, Sergeant Hasan Akbar of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division was convicted of the murder of two officers and attempted murder in the wounding of 14 other soldiers. Akbar was sentenced to death.
Wednesday 9th November, 2005
One year ago this week, US-led forces launched a devastating assault on the Iraqi city of Falluja. The mood was set by Lt Col Gary Brandl: "The enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He's in Falluja. And we're going to destroy him."
The assault was preceded by eight weeks of aerial bombardment. US troops cut off the city's water, power and food supplies, condemned as a violation of the Geneva convention by a UN special rapporteur, who accused occupying forces of "using hunger and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian population". Two-thirds of the city's 300,000 residents fled, many to squatters' camps without basic facilities.
As the siege tightened, the Red Cross, Red Crescent and the media were kept out, while males between the ages of 15 and 55 were kept in. US sources claimed between 600 and 6,000 insurgents were holed up inside the city - which means that the vast majority of the remaining inhabitants were non-combatants.
On November 8, 10,000 US troops, supported by 2,000 Iraqi recruits, equipped with artillery and tanks, supported from the air by bombers and helicopter gunships, blasted their way into a city the size of Leicester. It took a week to establish control of the main roads; another two before victory was claimed.
The city's main hospital was selected as the first target, the New York Times reported, "because the US military believed it was the source of rumours about heavy casualties". An AP photographer described US helicopters killing a family of five trying to ford a river to safety. "There were American snipers on top of the hospital shooting everyone," said Burhan Fasa'am, a photographer with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation. "With no medical supplies, people died from their wounds. Everyone in the street was a target for the Americans."
The US also deployed incendiary weapons, including white phosphorous. "Usually we keep the gloves on," Captain Erik Krivda said, but "for this operation, we took the gloves off".
By the end of operations, the city lay in ruins. Falluja's compensation commissioner has reported that 36,000 of the city's 50,000 homes were destroyed, along with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines. The US claims that 2,000 died, most of them fighters. Other sources disagree. When medical teams arrived in January they collected more than 700 bodies in only one third of the city. Iraqi NGOs and medical workers estimate between 4,000 and 6,000 dead, mostly civilians - a proportionately higher death rate than in Coventry and London during the blitz.
The collective punishment inflicted on Falluja - with logistical and political support from Britain - was largely masked by the US and British media, which relied on reporters embedded with US troops. The BBC, in particular, offered a sanitised version of the assault: civilian suffering was minimised and the ethics and strategic logic of the attack largely unscrutinised. Falluja proved to be yet another of the war's phantom turning points. Violent resistance spread to other cities. In the last two months, Tal-Afar, Haditha, Husaybah - all alleged terrorist havens heavily populated by civilians - have come under the hammer.
Falluja is still so heavily patrolled that visitors have described it as "a giant prison". Only a fraction of the promised reconstruction and compensation has materialised. Like Jallianwallah Bagh, Guernica, My Lai, Halabja and Grozny, Falluja is a place name that has become a symbol of unconscionable brutality.
As the war in Iraq claims more lives, we need to ensure that this atrocity - so recent, so easily erased from public memory - is recognised as an example of the barbarism of nations that call themselves civilised.
“…Those who unleashed this
most terrible chemical attack in human history
must acknowledge the consequences of their actions.
They are the American Government and
the factories that produced and profited from the
herbicides used during the Viet Nam War…”
Saturday, November 12, 2005
By Paul Craig Roberts
The Bush administration wants the power to detain indefinitely anyone it declares to be an enemy combatant or a terrorist without presenting the detainee in court with charges. In England the power to arrest people and to hold them indefinitely without charges was taken away from kings centuries ago. Bush apparently thinks he is the reincarnation of an absolute monarch.
- Lt Gen William Boykin, speaking of G. W. Bush, New York Times, 17 October 2003
God gave the savior to the German people. We have faith, deep and unshakeable faith, that he was sent to us by God to save Germany.
- Hermann Goering, speaking of Hitler
"I went down on my knees and prayed to Almighty God for light and guidance … and one night late it came to me this way.… We could not leave (the Philippines) to themselves--they were unfit for self-government--and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain's was.… There was nothing left for us to do but take them all and educate the Filipinos, and uplift and Christianize them."
- President William McKinley
A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.
The physics of 9/11 — including how fast and symmetrically one of the World Trade Center buildings fell — prove that official explanations of the collapses are wrong, says a Brigham Young University physics professor.
Professor Has Theory About 9/11 Attacks:
A BYU professor has developed a new (?) theory about the terrorist attack in New York on September 11, 2001. He believes planes alone did not bring down the world trade center.
A point of correction. DU is NOT a "low level" radioactive waste product left over from nuclear power reactors, as I first stated. It is actually a waste product left over from mineral processing, the enrichment process. Whilst in theory, it is less radioactive than the uranium ore mined at Roxby Downs, it does not mean that is is safe to humans or the environment. It is best kept underground. (I have now corrected this on the posting).
A snippet from http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/du.htm
"Depleted uranium [DU] results from the enriching of natural uranium for use in nuclear reactors. Natural uranium is a slightly radioactive metal that is present in most rocks and soils as well as in many rivers and sea water. Natural uranium consists primarily of a mixture of two isotopes (forms) of uranium, Uranium-235 (U235) and Uranium-238 (U238), in the proportion of about 0.7 and 99.3 percent, respectively. Nuclear reactors require U235 to produce energy, therefore, the natural uranium has to be enriched to obtain the isotope U235 by removing a large part of the U238. Uranium-238 becomes DU, which is 0.7 times as radioactive as natural uranium. Since DU has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, there is very little decay of those DU materials."
Another interesting page is
is the latest contribution by David Bradbury as an activist film maker. This is a film about the effects of depleted uranium used in Bosnia and Iraq. The film also suggests that depleted uranium has been used on Australian soil during joint military exercises with the US.
For crits of the film see:
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/arts/movietime/stories/s1441643.htm (Radio National)
http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1489013.htm (At The Movies)
http://webdiary.smh.com.au/archives/kerryn_higgs/001351.html (Margo Kingston)
http://www.newmatilda.com/home/articledetailmagazine.asp?ArticleID=1063&HomepageID=110 (Evan Shapiro, New Matilda.Com)
Adelaide, South Australia
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Chavez announces further expropriation
By Jorge Martin
Caracas Wednesday, 02 November 2005
More than 400 people from 235 worker occupied factories and 20 different national trade union centres participated in the "First Latin American Gathering of Worker Recovered Factories" in Caracas on October 27-29.This was truly a historical meeting, the first time that workers involved in factory occupations in different countries met to discuss their problems, share their experiences and draw political conclusions from their struggle. And such a meeting could only take place in revolutionary Venezuela where it had the support of Chavez’s Bolivarian government.
.....Asked about the debate president Chavez has opened up on "socialism of the 21st century", Serge Goulart replied: "The Venezuelan Revolution is extraordinary in that it confirms what the Marxists had always said. It started as a struggle against imperialism and for national sovereignty. But then we saw the working class entering the scene in the struggle against the sabotage of the oil industry and the revolution went further, as it did with the nationalisation of Venepal on January 19 this year. It started as an anti-imperialist struggle, but it either becomes socialist or it will be crushed. (…) The question will be posed of the nationalisation of the banks and the multinationals and that can only be carried out by the workers".
Orlando Chirino, National Coordinator of the Venezuelan UNT explained the context in which these factory occupations were taking place: "This is a symptom of the degeneration of capitalism which leads to a process of deregulation, flexibilisation and increased exploitation of the workers. Capitalism
no longer plays the progressive role it once played." .....
Both Chirino and the trade union representatives of Venezuela’s state-owned electricity company CADAFE, stressed that worker-management was enormously progressive and was "the only way of defeating bureaucratism and corruption which are threatening the Bolivarian Revolution"......
To read the full inspirational story: