Category Archives: International

Obama to Use Haiti to Rehabilitate George W (Updated)

As if poor Haiti didn’t have enough trouble, President Obama plans to send George W Bush, the man who took the disaster of  Katrina and made it into a top-notch tragedy of epic proportions just to destroy a bastion of GOP political opponents, to Haiti to help straighten things out.

President Obama is asking his two immediate predecessors – George W. Bush and Bill Clinton – to come together to lead the nation’s humanitarian and relief efforts to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake that has ravaged the Caribbean island.

The partnership is expected to be announced by the White House in the coming days, after officials have a better handle on the full scope of the devastation. Mr. Obama called Mr. Bush on Wednesday, aides to both men said, and Mr. Bush agreed to do whatever he could to help.

OK, so Clinton will be there, too. The Dynamic Duo? I don’t think so. Clinton knows govt and could help lobby for aid and clear away red tape. All Bush knos how to do in a disaster is stand in front of it and promise money he has no intention of delivering. So “whatever he can do to help” means photo-ops and empty promises?

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Democrats Support Secret Trade Deal that Lets Corps Evade Taxes

The Bush’s truly rotten trade deal with Panama and the Democratic leadership that is hip-deep in the drive to make sure it passes.

David Sirota has another round-up of the latest on the secret trade deal the Democratic leadership is developing with Bush out of the range of cameras or witnesses – or its own rank and file. The deal as a whole involves Peru, Panama, South Korea and Columbia(sp) Colombia, with different provisions that apply to each country separately as well as a group of provisions they hold in common. Sirota lists half-a-dozen articles and they’re all disturbing but I want to key on the one that is most indefensible: the deal with Panama.

Economist and investment/globalization specialist Peter Riggs of the Tax Justice Network, which describes itself as an outfit devoted to “combating tax evasion by corporations and the rich”, took a good long look at the Panama trade deal. After noting that the Panama and Peru deals have been considered “relatively non-controversial and will probably pass”, he explains that the deal with Panama has nothing to do with trade.

Indeed, the proposed bilateral trade agreement with Panama has skated through without much attention at all. But the agreement with Panama is highly significant. The problem is, the trade agreement with Panama isn’t really about trade. It’s about foreign investor rights, money laundering, and tax dodging. And the United States should in no way reward this notorious offshore tax haven with a “gold star” Free Trade Agreement.


Panama has two major areas of “economic comparative advantage” in the region. One, obviously, is the Canal. But the other is much more insidious-and major U.S. corporations are hoping that no one draws any attention to it.

Panama’s other economic comparative advantages are in the area of tax and banking secrecy, and the ease with which U.S. companies can create subsidiaries in Panama for purposes of dodging taxes.

Panama is already home to a lot of U.S. corporate subsidiaries. How many? Tens of thousands of U.S. corporations have hung out a shingle-or should we say, set up an email box-in that country.

Panama boasts a total of 400,000 registered corporations-second only to Hong Kong as a home to corporations and corporate subsidiaries. Subsidiaries whose sole purpose, in many cases, is to help transnational companies avoid taxes.

(emphasis added)

In the last few years, Panama has been consistently condemned by the G-7’s Financial Action Task Force for “resisting international norms in combating tax evasion and money laundering.” The Clinton Administration several times “vigorously expressed its concern about loose corporate accountability standards in Panama, and the murkiness of the Panamanian banking sector.” But the Bush Administration’s deal with Panama – a deal the Democratic leadership is pushing hard – is not only enshrining those low standards and “murkiness” in law, it’s going one step further and allowing corporations to evade both trade laws and courts.

[W]ith the text of the Free Trade Agreement as it now stands, Panamanian investors would get new rights in the United States, with no new disclosure responsibilities at home. We have a situation where it is very, very easy to set up a business subsidiary in Panama. Panama’s “corporate” specialists advertise the country has having the most favorable and flexible incorporation laws in the world, in addition to some of the strictest banking secrecy laws available.

So the FTA will just encourage more U.S. businesses to pursue a strategy for tax purposes, designed solely to evade taxes in the United States. But then the text of the Panama agreement allows corporations and investors with a “substantial business presence” in Panama-that is, registered subsidiaries of multinational corporations-to use provisions found in Chapter 10 of the agreement to bring a claim against U.S. laws using an international investor tribunal. Panamanian-registered corporations would be able to bypass the U.S. courts system altogether in the case of an investment dispute involving the United States.

That’s right, Panamanian corporations – as well as Panamanian subsidiaries of U.S. corporations – would be able to bypass the U.S. legal system, and take their claims to an international investor tribunal. Historically, these tribunals have proven much more sympathetic to corporate interests than they have to public-interest regulation.

The case is heard before an ad-hoc panel of three international investment lawyers, working without a system of formal legal precedent. Panamanian investors would be empowered to challenge U.S. federal, state, or local laws, citing an “expropriation” of expected profits or a failure to provide Panamanian investors with a “minimum standard of treatment.”

(emphasis added)

Sirota explains what this means.

So, if U.S. federal, state, or local laws tried to close tax loopholes or prevent corporations from evading taxes through tax havens like Panama, those corporations could cite their subsidiaries in Panama and the Panama Free Trade Agreement as grounds to have an international tribunal strike those laws down. Such cases have already been brought under NAFTA by corporations seeking to strike down American environmental laws. But thanks to Panama’s tax haven status, the Panama deal would take such abuse to a whole new level.

Charlie Rangel has a long and distinguished history in the House, but his overt advocacy for and determination to pass the FTA is putting a blot on his reputation he’ll be hard-put to erase. He has publicly announced that he intends to see the FTA passed whether the rank-and-file like it or not, and that he will ram it through over their objections and the objections of its progressive opponents no matter what.

I never thought, a few years ago, that I would ever see Charlie Rangel pimping for corporate crooks but what else can you call this?

There is absolutely no way to explain away the Democratic leadership’s actions over this bill as anything other than a deliberate collusion with the Bush White House to clear the way for more corporate theft of the public Treasury by legalizing tax evasion for multinationals. There is no possible excuse that can be made for their rabid support of the Panama “trade” deal when its sole purpose is to enable corporate thievery. It can’t by any measure you like be rationally justified as an “accident”, incompetence, or electoral fear.

Would any of our Democratic apologists like to try explaining why we shouldn’t dump the Dems over this?

Bush in Albania 2: That “Hero’s Welcome?” He Wasn’t the Hero

Like everybody else, I found it amusing – and sad – that the current president, persona-non-grata in 90% of the world’s countries and merely tolerated by the rest, had to flee to the home of an infamous dictator like Enver Hoxha to find a sympathetic audience. But then today, Peter Lucas – a political reporter who just finished a book about Albania – pointed out in a Globe Op-Ed that it wasn’t really Bush they were cheering. It was the US – and Bill Clinton.

Albania’s love affair with the United States did not begin overnight. It started when President Woodrow Wilson, after World War I, stood up to the victorious nations of Europe and insisted that Albania, made up of one of the oldest peoples of Europe, was a true nation and that its borders had to be preserved and protected.

Back then the so-called victorious Great Powers — Britain, France, and Italy — wanted to divide Albania up among its neighbors, as a sort of reward for fighting and defeating the German/Austrian coalition.

Serbia was slated for a piece here, Greece a chunk there, and Italy a section of the coast. But for Wilson standing up for Albania, the tiny, poor and defenseless country would have disappeared. So it is no small wonder than many an Albanian boy born after 1919 was named Wilson.

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Bush in Albania

Moved by the crowds of admirers, no doubt (the NYT says he “was treated like a rock star”), Bush got so confused he sounded like one – a drug-addled, not too bright rock star. Keith Richards, say.

The future of Kosovo is of paramount interest here; some Kosovo residents traveled to Tirana to join the crowd. The United Nations Security Council is considering a plan for independence, but Russia objects. On Saturday in Rome, the president agreed that there should be a deadline to end the United Nations talks, saying: “In terms of a deadline, there needs to be one. It needs to happen.”

But on Sunday, Mr. Bush tried to backtrack when asked when that deadline might be. “First of all, I don’t think I called for a deadline,” Mr. Bush said, during a press appearance with Mr. Berisha in the courtyard of a government ministry building. He was reminded that he had.

“I did?” he asked, sounding surprised. “What exactly did I say? I said deadline? O.K., yes, then I meant what I said.”

Uh, how can you mean what you say when you don’t even remember what it was?

The reporters laughed.

Yeah. Funny.

Our press. You like ’em, you keep ’em.

A Hero’s Welcome

According to the BBC, the Emperor “received a hero’s welcome in Albania”.


Reminds me of a story.

Once upon a time a man came to a NY nightclub for dinner and a show. He was arrogant, pompous, loud, and abusive. He threw his meal on the floor because he claimed it was undercooked, he yelled at the waiters and called them names, he spit out his wine, and he told the people at the next table they were low-class morons.

The manager, in an apparent attempt to mollify the man, sent a bottle of his best champagne to the table. When the man continued to be disruptive, the manager sent a maitre d’ over with a cheesecake – which the club was famous for – on the house. Still the man wouldn’t stop being offensive to everyone around him. Finally, the manager took off his own Rolex and sent it over to the man.

A waiter asked, “How can you give such an obnoxious jerk all those expensive gifts?”

The manager answered, “Well, he must be somebody’s father and I’m so glad he’s not mine, he can have anything I’ve got.”

Global Warming 2: Empty Promises and Stalling at the G-8

I keep hoping somebody somewhere is going to hold the Emperor’s feet to the fire, and I thought maybe the G-8 conference on global warming would be the place. Host Angela Merkel, German Chancellor and a fire-breather when it comes to the environment, started out pushing Bush harder – a lot harder – than our home-grown Bubble Boy is used to. She was dead-set on specific commitments: actual numbers attached to real targets with specific end-dates. No more of these vague “voluntary” agreements from the US – the biggest polluter on the planet – that leave corporations free to spew as much poison into the air as they feel like without consequences or any kind of realistic plan to reduce harmful emissions in, like, this century.

Alas, it was not to be. Bush wanted the spotlight moved away from the US and onto the next two biggest polluters, China and India, and he got what he wanted by making another vague promise to “enter negotiations” before – get this – 2009.

The United States agreed Thursday to “consider seriously” a European plan to combat global warming by cutting in half worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, averting a trans-Atlantic deadlock at a meeting here of the world’s richest industrial nations.

The compromise, worked out in tough negotiations between the United States and Germany, also endorses President Bush’s recent proposal to bring together the world’s largest emitting countries, including China and India, to set their own national goals for reducing emissions.

The agreement reached Thursday does not include a mandatory 50 percent reduction in global emissions by 2050, a key provision sought by Chancellor Angela Merkel, nor does it commit the United States or Russia to specific reductions.

Coming from the man who has made a million promises in the past 6 years and kept two of them – tax cuts and the permanent occupation of Iraq – this one is worth nothing. Less than nothing. Bush, complaining of a convenient tummy ache, wasn’t even there for the announcement.

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VATech: Dying to Protect the Crazies (Updated)


(Cartoon by Jim Borgman)

Scott Horton, Harper’s worthy answer to Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald, quotes some of the European press on the VATech shooting. Unlike the coverage here, it ain’t about immigration or Cho’s anger or the school’s slow response or the heartbreaking stories of the victims’ lives. It’s about one thing: the guns. Excerpts:

Hamburg’s Der Spiegel runs a summary of press reactions across Europe and finds that Charlton Heston and the NRA are repeatedly singled out as responsible for the tragedy. “The shooting at Virginia Tech is the result of America’s woeful lack of serious gun control laws.


Madrid’s El País, puts the blame squarely on the National Rifle Association and reproduces a photograph of Charlton Heston brandishing a rifle. “[C]ontrol measures,“ writes that paper, ”are systematically challenged by an abusive interpretation of the Second Amendment….”


The conservative London Times writes “But why, we ask, do Americans continue to tolerate gun laws and a culture that seems to condemn thousands of innocents to death every year, when presumably, tougher restrictions, such as those in force in European countries, could at least reduce the number?”

Horton, a lawyer, concludes:

Around the world, America is being portrayed as a land of wanton violence, obsessed with firearms—as the locus of a bizarre death cult. The grounds for this are not simply what happened at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School, but the way the American public has reacted to these tragedies.

Or not reacted. Despite the furor after Columbine, absolutely NOTHING was done to control the sale of deadly weapons. The Pub Congress refused to extend the assault weapons ban, and even relatively painless strengthening of gun registration laws were rejected practically without discussion. In fact, gun laws have actually been loosened in the 12 years of Republican rule.

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Lost in Space: NeoCondi in the Middle East

Golly, since the Libby trial went to the jury, everybody in the Bush Administration has been out of town: Cheney’s been table-hopping the globe, Bush has been discovering poverty in Latin America, and NeoCondi is in Israel stumbling around trying to sell a quick-dry Palestinian state and getting blind-sided by a move everybody and his Cousin Elmo saw coming a half-mile away.

The United States and Israel have sought to thwart creation of a Palestinian unity government, but U.S. officials are withholding public judgment about the new government until the Palestinian parliament ratifies it tomorrow. But they privately acknowledge that Abbas’s announcement last month that he had struck a deal with Hamas was a blow to U.S. and Israeli efforts to elevate Abbas as an alternative to Hamas.

“Abbas promised us several times he would not agree to a national unity government,” a senior Israeli diplomat said this week. “But then he sold the store to Hamas. He left us flabbergasted and without a strategy.”

Who wants to break it to the fabulous NeoCondi that getting Abbas and Olmert to talk isn’t a strategy so much as a tactic without one? And how come she doesn’t have a back-up when Hamas was voted into the Palestinian govt months ago and the formation of a unity govt has been in the works for weeks? And weeks? And weeks?

U.S. officials say Rice remains determined to try to make headway on the Israeli-Palestinian issue after six years of stagnation.

Hmmm. Six years of stagnation, six years of Bush. Co-incidence?

Is there anybody in this admin who isn’t embarrassing in their ignorance and pathetic in practice?

Bush and Latin America 3: Promises, Promises

Junior’s trip to Latin America has taken a much different path than expected, at least by me. For one thing, the armored bubble in which he usually travels protected from any and all contact with the hoi-polloi has been replaced by personal appearances in “shanty neighborhoods” where he came face-to-face with actual poor people for what appears from his reaction to be the first time in his life.

For President Bush, the six-day voyage through Latin America that ended Wednesday proved to be unlike any of his previous foreign trips. It was one in which he tried ever so haltingly to escape the palaces and diplomatic salons long enough to see how people live and to emphasize that it matters to him.

The inspiration for the unusual itinerary was more about the vagaries of geopolitics than newfound curiosity, but the trip exposed the president to sights and sounds that he rarely encounters overseas. The rhetoric of security and terrorism that usually flavors his visits was replaced with discussion of “the human condition” and how to lift millions of neighbors out of deep, enduring poverty.

“We’re allies in the cause of social justice,” he told the Guatemalans. “The plight of the poor” has drawn U.S. concern, he explained in Uruguay. “We’re all members of God’s family,” he said in Brazil. “And when one of us hurts, we also hurt.”

Uh-huh. Pity he’s never been able to summon up the same empathy for the poor in his own country. But then, we don’t have a massive left-wing movement led by a Hugo Chavez.

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Bush and Latin America 2: Brazil Isn’t Happy

Well, that didn’t take long.

Thousands of students, workers and environmentalists protesting President Bush’s arrival here Thursday shut down a road in a central business district, and some clashed with helmet-wearing riot police who fired tear gas and beat demonstrators.

The boisterous rally and the sharp police response presaged a potentially volatile visit for the president, who landed here in the evening for a six-day tour through Latin America, his longest since taking office. Protesters also gathered Thursday in Colombia and Mexico, two later stops on Bush’s itinerary, and organizers expect tens of thousands at a demonstration in Buenos Aires on Friday.

Before his plane had even set down on the tarmac, they were gathering. Six thousand of them, and that’s only the beginning. Expressions of deep disgust were everywhere.

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Bush and Latin America: Bottomless Hypocricy

Bush is about to tour Latin America, and according to Dan Froomkin, has been trying to out-Chavez Chavez with faux-populist rhetoric of the kind he wouldn’t ordinarily be caught dead using here.

Just before heading off for a six-day visit to Latin America, President Bush yesterday attempted to co-opt the populist rhetoric of his hemispheric arch-nemesis, President Hugo Chavez, of Venezuela.

Speaking to the “tens of millions in our hemisphere” who “remain stuck in poverty, and shut off from the promises of the new century,” Bush said: “My message to those trabajadores y campesinos is, you have a friend in the United States of America. We care about your plight.”

But if you think Bush has a credibility problem in his own country, it’s even worse south of the border — especially when it comes to issues of social justice.

Let there be no doubt about this: Bush’s attempt to persuade Latin Americans that he is the champion of the poor — given his pro-business bent and six years of an almost exclusive focus on free trade and terrorism — is utterly doomed. Almost laughably so.

Bush leaves for Brazil on Thursday, then travels to Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico. Here’s the text of his speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce yesterday. Startlingly, it contains the phrase “social justice” fully five times.

“Social justice” and Junior Bush? You might say that’s the textbook definition of “cognitive dissidence”.

But believe it or not, it gets worse.

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What Is Putin Up To?

I noted this story in the LAT yesterday morning but ignored it. It smelled like a barrel of week-old cod to me. I was pretty sure it was bogus and I couldn’t figure out why Putin would be doing it; he’s already got Junior wrapped around his little finger, he doesn’t need to curry favor or buy influence, and Baku is a done deal. So why? The article claims that in ‘Russian political circles’ it’s believed that Putin is trying to help Junior’s re-election; if that’s true then the question is, ‘What does Putin want from Bush that he doesn’t think he’ll get from Kerry?’

I still haven’t figured out the answer to that, but I was right that it was bogus. Reuters is reporting that the State Department doesn’t know what the hell Putin is on about.

ASTANA, Kazakhstan (Reuters) – Russia warned the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein planned to hit targets on U.S. soil, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday.Putin’s remarks looked certain to help President Bush, but officials at the State Department expressed surprise, saying they knew of no such information from Russia.

“This information was passed on to our American colleagues,” he said. He added, however, that Russian intelligence had no proof that Saddam’s agents had been involved in any particular attack.State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters he did not know anything about the information that Putin said Russia passed on. No such information was communicated from Russia through the State Department, he said.

“Everybody’s scratching their heads,” said one State Department official, who asked not to be named

So is everybody else. That even the new Russia would share asset intelligence of such questionable provenance and ambiguity is hard to believe; people keep forgetting but Putin is ex-KGB and the KGB makes Dick Cheney look like a blabbermouth gossip. They would share intelligence with us only if they got something that meant a great deal more to them in return. Unless, of course, they knew the information was useless, outdated, or untrue. But if they got what they wanted then, why is Putin doing this now? Why go out of his way to back Junior’s insistence that there was a connection when the 9/11 Commisiion says there’s wasn’t, or at least not much of one?

The only answer I can come up with–and I’m not satisfied with it; it’s too simple–is what I said at the top: Putin’s got Junior wrapped around his little finger. No inconvenient speeches against the brutal suppression of independence in Chechnya, no opposition to the destruction of Russia’s new free press, no blocking of loan guarantees on the basis of his extensive human rights violations, and so on and so on, none of which rolling-over-and-showing-his-belly he can expect from Kerry.

As for the claim itself, Steve Soto at Left Coaster quickly pulls it apart.

Putin is now saying that he and his intelligence services knew that Saddam was planning terrorist attacks against US targets here and abroad back in the Fall of 2002. Yet he had his ex-military people assisting Saddam in early 2003. Then why is Bush even dealing with Putin now? Wasn’t our new policy as outlined by Bush, Cheney, Rice, et. al., to not only go after terrorists but also those states and leaders who aid terrorists and their organizations?Or does oil change everything?

Steve, I think you just answered your own question there.

Reagan Redux Reduxed 4:The Latin View

Marcela Sanchez says that for Latinos, Reagan’s legacy is…mixed.

WASHINGTON — Ronald Reagan is probably remembered most in Latin America as a ruthless anti-communist who went out of his way — and outside the law — to support the anti-Sandinista Contras in Nicaragua and to strengthen brutal regimes in countries such as El Salvador and Guatemala, as long as they remained loyal to his crusade against Soviet influence.For Central America, the 40th U.S. president was either a godsend who helped steer the region away from a Cuban destiny or a destructive meddler who had no respect for sovereignty. Whatever one’s view, it is a fact that Washington’s support during the Reagan years helped fuel conflicts that left thousands of innocent people dead and thousands more fleeing the violence. Many who fled came to this country illegally.

Yet in November 1986, months before the worst crisis of his presidency, the Iran-Contra scandal, Reagan signed into law the most sweeping immigration reform in decades, allowing about 3 million illegal immigrants to stay, work and, more important, become U.S. citizens.

Reagan’s legacy to Latin America and Latin Americans is paradoxical. He was painfully shortsighted at times and visionary at others. His crusade against the “evil empire” cut a destructive path through Central America, yet his optimism about individuals helped open U.S. doors to millions.

Doug McGill in Ethiopia

According to ‘dave’ of The Anuak Genocide Watch, a blog from Gambella, a reporter from Rochester, Minnesota is ‘the only member of the press consistently covering the events’ there. Doug McGill, the former NY Times reporter, now writes a column for the Rochester Post-Bulletin called ‘Global Rochester’. (A little Rochester, Minnesota paper can do this but the NYT can’t?) The columns are collected on a website called, naturally enough, The McGill Report, and his despatches from Ethiopia are, or should be, required reading. A sample.

‘The Minister of Genocide’

Some Anuak relief groups have named Barnabas Gebre-Ab, Ethiopia’s Minister of Federal Affairs for the State of Gambella, in western Ethiopia, as the highest-ranking of three officials responsible for the targeted killing of more than 1,200 Anuak in the past three months in Gambella.Last December 13, more than 400 Anuak were killed in a single day in the town of Gambella, the capital of the state of Gambella. Eyewitnesses say the Ethiopian army has since conducted scorched-earth raids against many Anuak villages killing men, women, and children.

Like many top Ethiopian government figures, Gebre-Ab fought as a revolutionary for more than a decade to topple the cruel Communist regime known as the Dergue. Gebre-Ab was a medic in the revolutionary militia, hiding out for years until the Dergue was finally overthrown in 1991.

As we finished our beers, Gebre-Ab described how he had hungrily read through all the great works of Communist revolutionaries for inspiration. It struck me that he and his fellow revolutionaries are now discovering that revolution doesn’t work as a principle of governance.It’s been thirteen years since the Dergue was overthrown. Today, rather than fostering democracy, the Ethiopian government is adopting the Dergue’s own former methods to keep power and maintain domestic rule.

‘An Anouak Survivor’s Story’

NAIROBI, KENYA — Emmanuel Okwier Oletho, a teenage agriculture student in Gambella who has a sister in Minnesota, was at home at around noon on December 13. His father, Okwier Oletho, the pastor at the Assembly of God Chuch, was one of Gambella’s most prominent figures. Here is Emmanuel’s eyewitness account of that day:

“A lot of Highlanders came, followed by Ethiopian government soldiers. My Pop opened the window and he said ‘I’m a pastor, why are you looking for me?’ They said ‘We are searching for you. You are the one we are looking for.’ He said ‘Okay, let me finish my prayer.’ At that time the house was starting to burn because they threw two bombs into the house. The furniture was burning.

“When he finished he ran out the window. They pursued after him and killed him with an axe.”

‘A Bloody Saturday’

On Saturday, December 13, in a single bloody burst of targeted mass murder, Ethiopia became the world’s latest sovereign to attempt genocide as a way to solve its problems with a troublesome minority.The U.S., which gave Ethiopia $32 million in foreign aid last year, is investigating the massacre in which eyewitnesses say uniformed Ethiopian soldiers murdered more than 400 members of the Anuak tribe.

The charge is made by dozens of Anuak refugees who live in the United States, and who have spoken by telephone to relatives who survived the massacre. More than 2,000 Anuak live in the U.S., having fled ethnic cleansing over the past decade.

The genocide in Ethiopia is, it seems, only being covered with any regularity in Rochester, Minnesota. The rest of the world is too busy with George’s Folly to care. Somebody needs to tell Emmanuel not to expect any outside help. President George W ‘I went to war against Saddam because he was committing genocide’ Bush is only interested in stopping genocide when it’s happening in a country with oil–A LOT of oil. Tell Junior that the area of the Anuak has oil (it does, too, though not all that much, certainly not compared to Iraq) and maybe you’ll get his attention.

First, though, somebody has to show him where Ethiopia is.

Africa, George. Africa. Big place south of Italy, right across the water (you know where Italy is, that’s the place you got in so much trouble on your first Euro-trip that the Prime Minister, considered by many experts in Europe to be the dumbest politician on the continent, had to pull you out of the fire by the heels). Camels, lions, pyramids. You know. AFRICA. Elephants, crocodiles, scary black people. AFRICA, you dimwit. It’s near Iraq. *sigh* Map, George. Look at a map. *pause* That thing with the squiggly lines running all over it. Never seen one before? Oh, fine. Oh, a road map? Um, not quite the same thing, George. This covers a little more territory–NO, Africa was NOT your birthday present. Saudi Arabia was. Remember that nice Mr Abdullah who came to see you? He dropped off the keys that day. It’s all yours– No, when you’re old enough to handle it respons– GET DOWN FROM THERE RIGHT NOW! Right NOW, I said! The very idea. Reaching for Iran when you haven’t digested Iraq yet and Afghanistan is sitting on a corner of your plate hardly touched. On second thought, maybe it will be best if you don’t know where Ethiopia is. Well, best for both of you, dear. I’m not sure that poor little country could stand Gebre-Ab and you at the same time. Why don’t you go find Don and the two of you can play outside. Well, I don’t know. Bomb some more wedding parties in the desert, you had fun doing that, didn’t you? Oh, the neighbors didn’t like it? How do you know? They wrote you a note. But darling, you don’t know how to–Oh, Don read it to you and that’s how you know what it said. Well, I don’t care what you do but really, dear, you’ve got to get out of Mommy’s hair because frankly if she doesn’t get a little drinky-poo and some peace and quiet pretty soon, she’s going to SCREAM! Now, GIT! And don’t touch Syria! I’m saving that for Christmas!

What Is It With Tony Blair?

I can’t remember the legal term for it but in court when you’re cross-examining a witness you’re not allowed to inject questions about issues unless the other side raised them in the direct examination. That’s sort of what happened to Bush. From the moment he uttered the phrase ‘full sovereignty’, it’s been open season.

A day after President Bush declared in a major speech that Iraqis would exercise authority over their own affairs, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London that Iraq’s interim government would have the right to veto specific military operations by the U.S.-led coalition, a view American officials immediately disputed. And French President Jacques Chirac told Bush in a telephone conversation that France wanted any new U.N. Security Council resolution to spell out clearly that the Iraqis would have a say over U.S.-led military operations.

The BA has been running around saying that there was going to be a ‘handover’ on June 30 no matter what but no one has been, until now, holding their feet to the fire to get a straight answer about exactly what that means. Then Junior opened the door to the issue Monday night and Tony Blair jumped right into the snake pit by publicly assuming that ‘full’ meant ‘full’, which, of course, it doesn’t, as those of us who understand the games Bush plays wih words knew as soon as he said it. That Tony didn’t know it should be troubling to Brits.

I like Blair, I have to admit. He comes across as the reasonable man in the unreasonable situation, but his insistent naivete when it comes to the Bush Administration is paradoxical, or at least mysterious. Tony Blair is not an idiot, yet he persists in acting like he’s three fries short of a Happy Meal whenever Bush is around. Alright, he bought Feith’s Chalabi-generated lies about WMD’s in Iraq; so did a lot of other people. But then he bought the Niger documents that his own Foreign Office knew were forgeries; he swallowed Colin Powell’s UN speech whole although he must have known at that point that most of it was based on bogus information; and he has defended like a trooper the BA protestations of ignorance over Abu Ghraib, Kimmet’s odious defense of the wedding-party cock-up with the standard Israeli excuse–‘They were shooting at us’–despite the video evidence to the contrary, and now this.

You’d think somebody as smart as Blair would know by now that when he’s been lied to several dozen times the chances are pretty good he’s being lied to again. But no. Once again he’s embarrassed himself in public by assuming Bush meant what he said when it’s perfectly obvious to the rest of the world that he didn’t.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said the U.S. did not intend to give the Iraqis authority over American operations in Iraq. He said the relationship between the interim government and coalition forces would be negotiated only after the new officials were named.”Obviously, we would take into account whatever they might say at a political and military level,” Powell told reporters in Washington. “Ultimately, however, if it comes down to the United States armed forces protecting themselves or in some way accomplishing their mission in a way that might not be in total consonance with what the Iraqi interim government might want to do at a particular moment in time, U.S. forces remain under U.S. command and will do what is necessary to protect themselves.”

In other words, the Pentagon will remain in control, handover or no handover, and the only man in the whole world surprised by that ‘clarification’ is Boy Georgie’s British puppet, Tony Blair. Chirac, who manipulated Junior shamelessly for his own ends when the new Pres went on his first extended European holiday right after his inauguration, was sufficiently realistic to demand specifics.

French President Jacques Chirac told Bush in a telephone conversation that France wanted any new U.N. Security Council resolution to spell out clearly that the Iraqis would have a say over U.S.-led military operations.

See, Jacques has had enough experience with the lies of the BA to want what ‘full’ means spelled out in writing–he wants the corporate CEO’s running the US held to a contract. Blair is merely using the common sense of an intelligent man expecting the BA to do the rational thing.

In a London news conference Tuesday, Blair seemed to be reassuring the French and other Security Council members when he said that the Iraqis would be allowed to block U.S. military plans.”If there’s a political decision as to whether you go into a place like Fallouja in a particular way, that has to be done with the consent of the Iraqi government,” Blair said, in a reference to recent U.S. attacks on Sunni Muslim insurgents in that city. “The final political control remains with the Iraqi government. That’s what the transfer of sovereignty means.”

Sounds logical enough, doesn’t it? That is, after all, what the word ‘full’ means in English, and Junior used that word–several times. In a normal, rational world, Blair should have been able to assume that the head of the US govt meant what he said in a public speech. But the world of the Bushies is neither normal nor rational; it is the comic-book Bizarro world of saying one thing and doing the opposite and it has been that way for three years, yet Blair simply doesn’t catch on. If I was a Brit, Blair’s continued naivete would worry me. A lot.

Oh, and one more consequence of the legal doctrine I mentioned to start with: Bush’s use, finally, of the word ‘occupation’ has allowed others to admit publicly that that’s what this is.

A senior Bush administration official in Baghdad said he expected the U.S. to negotiate an agreement with the Iraqi interim government in early June.”It is a crucial issue,” said the official, who spoke on condition that he not be named.

The Iraqi government, he said, will have “a seat at the table” when military decisions are made. But he bristled when asked whether that meant the Iraqis would have the explicit power to block U.S. military plans.

“We went through half a century with Germany, half a century with Japan, and we didn’t talk like that,” he said, referring to the issue of veto power. (emphasis added)

There it is, right out in the open–the comparison of Iraq to the occupations of Germany and Japan after WW II.

Tony? Got it yet?