The Friends of California Libre...

20 February 2003

Ides of March

Greetings, many friends,
This is a lengthy but action-packed screed. Things are moving along at a nice clip now. Our "coalition of the willing" is being reduced to one nation: the United States of America. Right now the most likely date for an attack on Iraq is just after Dr. Blix's next report on 14 March, the full moon, the "Ides of March". Beware, Caesar!

This screed is in several parts, for those who like to skim:
1st: EMERGENCY MESSAGE! Please read.
2nd: The war's already started!
3rd: Events in Europe.
4th: Events in Iran.

FIRST: I will resend this part of the message if need be. These ambitious folks are planning a general strike (i.e. don't go to work, folks) if a war begins. The last general strike in California was 1946; the last general strike in the United States in 1877. There has never been a worldwide general strike. PLEASE FORWARD THIS MESSAGE WIDELY. My union will vote on this issue on 28 February, and many others have placed it on their agenda. If it passes at the national level the walkout will be considered an official action (i.e. like a picket) and will be honored by other unions; so if you're unionized, you've got the day off.

As the Bush Administration threatens to wage a unilateral war of aggression we must do all we can to make this movement the single biggest obstacle to war. We do not believe that war in inevitable. However, if the war starts we must be organized to resist and disable the war machine.

The DAY a new U.S. war on Iraq starts -- EMERGENCY PROTEST at a central location -- in Washington, D.C. at the White House, in New York at Times Square, in San Francisco at Powell and Market -- to protest the war followed by a march through city neighborhoods beginning at 5 p.m. (the next day at 5 p.m. if the bombing begins at night). Many cities and communities have a tradition of holding these emergency actions in response to U.S. military aggression. If your community does not have a traditional plan, pick a busy location/intersection, a Federal Building, Town Hall, etc.

THE MORNING AFTER THE WAR STARTS -- WALK OUT/STAYAWAY! ORGANIZE WALK-OUTS from school, work, leave your home. Spend the morning leafleting for people to join the anti-war movement. A.N.S.W.E.R. offices and organizing centers around the country will be open in the morning to pick up leaflets and from there you can head out with others into your community. Converge mid-day at noon at city centers -- in Washington, D.C. at the White House, in New York City at Union Square, in San Francisco at Civic Center Plaza -- to engage in protest actions against the war. Download flyers at and locate organizing centers in your area.

THE FIRST SATURDAY AFTER -- CONVERGE AT THE WHITE HOUSE -- The Saturday after a new war on Iraq is launched, thousands of people will be converging at the White House in Washington DC at 12 noon. To list your city's Emergency Response Mobilization Plan, fill out the form at (if the link does not take you directly to the form, just scroll down)

SECOND: Okay, on to the screed. Many of you participated in the protests last weekend...don't despair...just the fact that Bush smirked at you means he's pissed off.

** World protests back diplomatic push against Iraq war **
More than two million demonstrators turned out across the world on Saturday to join a chorus of international leaders in urging Washington not to rush into a war against Iraq.

However, here's news you haven't heard: the war's already started. Read these next two articles:
** U.S. troops already working in Iraq **
U.S. Special Operations troops are already operating in various parts of Iraq, hunting for weapons sites, establishing a communications network and seeking potential defectors from Iraqi military units, U.S. defense officials and experts familiar with Pentagon planning said.

Iranian-backed forces cross into Iraq
Iraqi defence minister 'under house arrest'
Luke Harding Monday February 17 2003
The Guardian
Saddam Hussein was last night reported to have placed his defence minister and close relative under house arrest in an extraordinary move apparently designed to prevent a coup. Iraqi opposition newspapers, citing sources in Baghdad, yesterday claimed that the head of the Iraqi military, Lieutenant-General Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Jabburi Tai, was now effectively a prisoner in his home in the capital. The minister's apparent detention, also reported by Cairo-based al-Ahram newspaper, is surprising. He is not only a member of President Saddam's inner circle, but also a close relative by marriage. His daughter is married to Qusay Hussein, the dictator's 36-year-old younger son - considered by many as his heir apparent. Reports of the general's arrest came amid signs of growing apprehension in Baghdad that the Iraqi army, including the elite Republican Guard, might desert in the event of an attack on Iraq. Last night one independent source in Baghdad contacted by the Guardian confirmed that Gen Sultan was in custody. "He continues to attend cabinet meetings and appear on Iraqi TV, so that everything seems normal," said the source, a high-ranking official with connections to Iraq's ruling Ba'ath party. "But in reality his house and family are surrounded by Saddam's personal guards. They are there so he can't flee." The source also claimed that several other high-ranking military and government officials had been arrested in the past few days. Any signs of dissent within Baghdad will be watched very closely by US and other intelligence services.

The Saudi regime has been taking the lead in attempting to foment unrest within Baghdad. Under a proposal put forward by the Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, all but President Saddam's innermost circle would be granted immunity from war crimes prosecution - the hope being that such a guarantee would encourage senior members of the Iraqi government to stage a coup. This is not the first time President Saddam has apparently fallen out with his family. In 1996 he had his two sons-in-law executed after he persuaded them to return to Baghdad following their defection to Jordan. His estranged first wife Sajida is no longer on speaking terms with him after the mysterious death of her brother. Gen Sultan has been one of President Saddam's most trusted colleagues. In the humiliating aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war, it was he who signed a ceasefire deal between the Iraqi army and US-led coalition forces. More recently he negotiated with Moscow over the resumption of military ties.

The fear that Iraq's 700,000-strong regular army might refuse to fight invading American troops has prompted President Saddam to take drastic measures. Last week he reportedly deployed a ruthless militia of Iranian fighters to several key cities to crush any popular uprisings. The Mojahedin-e-Khalq - a violent Iranian opposition group based in Iraq - was sent to defend urban areas, including Baghdad, Kurdish newspapers reported. MEK fighters have also arrived at the border with Kuwait and Syria. The MEK remains fanatically loyal to the president and is likely to lead any street fighting against US troops, Iraqi opposition sources believe. Gen Sultan earned a reputation as one of Iraq's most courageous officers during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and was decorated by President Saddam Hussein for bravery. A well-respected soldier, he survived several purges of Iraq's military establishment in the aftermath of the war and rose to become the Iraqi army's most senior general. President Saddam eventually made him defence minister.

But it could get a lot uglier. This is what we dreaded when Ronnie Reagan was President:
** Rumsfeld wont rule out nuclear bomb against Iraq **
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Thursday refused to rule out the U.S. use of nuclear weapons in a possible war with Iraq, while a leading senator told him such a move would trigger "a near-total breakdown" in American relations with the rest of the globe.

That protector of our liberty, John Ashcroft, has created a bill to extend the war on terror even further into our lives. It's called by some "Patriot II" but perhaps your take on it will be different. Policy wonks like me will enjoy reading the whole document, but I urge all to read the summary:

THIRD: Here's several articles on how the United States, a democracy, answers its democratic allies: drop dead.
U.S. Lawmakers Weigh Actions to Punish France, Germany
U.S. lawmakers, angry over France's and Germany's opposition to the administration's Iraq policies, are considering retaliatory gestures such as trade sanctions against the French and pressing for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany.

American strategy to Divide and Conquer the EU
*Europe's new gang resists US 'bullying'*
Russia, Germany and France make an unlikely anti-war alliance - but they all have their reasons for standing up to the US, writes Angus Roxburgh.

Arab News - US and Israel demonstrate an interest in weakening Europe

*Nato: An alliance past its best?*
*Turkey ups stakes on US troops*

And finally, as always I quote the Guardian in its entirety, but this one is a doozy:
US to punish German 'treachery'
Peter Beaumont, David Roseand Paul Beaver
Saturday February 15 2003 The Guardian
America is to punish Germany for leading international opposition to a war against Iraq. The US will withdraw all its troops and bases from there and end military and industrial co-operation between the two countries - moves that could cost the Germans billions of euros. The plan - discussed by Pentagon officials and military chiefs last week on the orders of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - is designed 'to harm' the German economy to make an example of the country for what US hawks see as Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's 'treachery'. The hawks believe that making an example of Germany will force other countries heavily dependent on US trade to think twice about standing up to America in future.

This follows weeks of increasingly angry exchanges between Rumsfeld and Germany, in which at one point he taunted Germany and France for being an irrelevant part of 'old Europe'. Now Rumsfeld has decided to go further by unilaterally imposing the Pentagon's sanctions on a country already in the throes of economic problems. 'We are doing this for one reason only: to harm the German economy,' one source told The Observer last week. 'Our troops contribute many millions of dollars. Why should we continue to support a country which has treated Nato and the protection we provided for decades with such incredible contempt?' Another Pentagon source said: 'The aim is to hit German trade and commerce. It is not just about taking out the troops and equipment; it is also about cancelling commercial contracts and defence-related arrangements.'

The Pentagon plan - and the language expressed by officials close to Rumsfeld - has horrified State Department officials, who believe that bullying other countries to follow the US line will further exacerbate anti-Americanism and alienate those European countries that might support a United Nations resolution authorising a war. German industry earns billions of euros every year from supporting the US Army Europe which, although reduced from its Cold War heights, still totals 42,000 troops and 785 tanks - almost three times as many as the British Army owns. Many of these soldiers and their fighting equipment, including Apache helicopters, have already been sent to the Gulf. German industry is heavily involved in supporting the US presence. Among the defence companies which stand to lose out are missile-maker Diehl, aerospace and defence giant EADS Deutschland, armaments maker Rheinmetall and vehicle maker Krauss-Maffei Wegmann.

There is also a US Air Force contingent of about 15,000 service people with bases at Bitburg, Frankfurt-am-Main and neighbouring Ramstein, where the commander doubles as part of the Nato command. This force includes nearly 60 F-16 fighter-bombers and a squadron of A-10 tank-buster aircraft.

Rumsfeld and his staff have made no attempt to hide their fury at Schröder's 'treachery and ineptitude' over Iraq. Last week Schröder leaked to reporters a Franco-German plan for avoiding war by increasing the number of UN weapons inspectors before informing his American counterparts. 'After this, Germany is finished as a serious power,' one of the sources added. 'This is simply not the way to conduct diplomacy at a moment of international crisis.' One diplomatic source said Rumsfeld was 'furious at Germany. He is a bruiser and it looks as though he means to do it'. Under these plans, the US would move its troops in Europe eastwards to countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states, all of which have strongly supported America's line against Saddam Hussein.

It is likely that the overall size of the deployment would be reduced, as the US military changes its priorities for a long-term and disparate engagement with international terrorism. Although Rumsfeld had already been considering a redeployment of US troops around the world after a war in Iraq to save money and respond to new threats, the plans now under consideration go far beyond what had been discussed. It is likely that future years will see a sharp increase in the proportion of special forces troops able to deploy rapidly across the globe. Germany would suffer considerable financial loss if US forces were withdrawn from the country. The bases provide jobs for local people as everything from administrators to cleaners, and are huge customers for dairy products and bread.

FOURTH: Events in Iran are also accelerating rapidly in response to war all around that country; whether for good or ill we shall all soon see.
This Aging Ayatollah Could Rewrite Iran's Future
By Geneive Abdo
One summer afternoon in 2000, when I was working in Tehran, some Iranian friends called to report an amazing development: Searching around on the Web, they had come across a smiling Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri staring back at them, his round cheeks and large-framed glasses taking up a good chunk of their computer screens. The fact that Montazeri had created his own Web site, not only for Iranians but for the whole world to see, seemed inconceivable. At the time, Montazeri was under house arrest for saying the unthinkable -- that Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was ruling the country like a dictator. In a place where any negative public comments about Iran's supreme clerical ruler constitute a crime, Montazeri was lucky to be alive. Yet he had made another bold move by finding freedom in cyberspace.

Time to talk to Tehran - The US should reconsider its war of words on Iran, writes Simon Tisdall Friday February 07 2003 - The Guardian
If the Islamic Republic of Iran is feeling a trifle twitchy these days, it has good reason. As matters stand now, an immensely powerful US and British military force is assembling on its southern, Gulf flank, poised to attack and occupy its neighbour, Iraq. In Turkey, across Iran's north-western border, an allied military build-up is also in progress, centred on the Turkish air bases used to enforce the Iraqi northern no-fly zone. Close by, along the western frontier between Iraq and Iran, Kurdish separatists with no love for Tehran are preparing to use Saddam Hussein's possible downfall to pursue their long-thwarted dream of nationhood.

To the east, Afghanistan lies under the hand of the US military and its pro-western president, Hamid Karzai, whom the US helped to power. To the north and east, the central Asian bases occupied by the US prior to its invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 remain in place, despite assurances at the time that they were only temporary. To Iran's south-east is Sunni-dominated Pakistan, the country that helped create the Taliban - extremist Sunni zealots who were Shi'ite Iran's ideological and political foes and who it opposed by assisting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance long before the US came on the scene. Pakistan's ruler, general Pervez Musharraf, was forced to abandon the Taliban after 9/11, and has since become a virtual US client. This has done little to endear him to Tehran. Although not perhaps entirely deliberate, this adds up to an encirclement of Iran by the US and by US-dominated powers. For any country concerned about its national defence, such a situation would amount to a strategic nightmare. For Iran, which has been at loggerheads with the US since diplomatic relations were severed after the 1979 revolution, it is deeply threatening.

Half-hearted efforts by the Clinton administration in the 1990s to build bridges with Tehran came to nothing. Since the advent of the Bush administration, the overall position has deteriorated sharply. Last year, US president George Bush included Iran in his "axis of evil". On at least two occasions since, most recently in his state of the union address last month, he has appeared to promise US support for popular insurrection in Iran. Tentative attempts by Tehran to open a dialogue with Washington, not least via the UN in New York where Iran maintains an accredited ambassador, have been rebuffed, Iranian diplomats say. In its efforts to keep Iran isolated, the US has repeatedly pressured Russia to curb industrial and military cooperation with Iran, and has criticised the EU's policy of dialogue. The US regularly highlights Iran's alleged support for "terrorists", by which it mostly means Palestinian groups, and does nothing to contradict Bush's close ally, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, when he identifies Iran as the biggest threat to his country's security.

The US maintains that Iran is developing nuclear weapons - something which Iran flatly denies - and possesses other types of weapons of mass destruction and missiles. It also professes to be concerned about human rights abuses and a lack of democracy in oil-rich Iran. Little wonder, then, given these extremely familiar US complaints, that many in Tehran (and elsewhere) fear that Iran may be next, after Iraq, for a course of pre-emptive, involuntary "liberation" as prescribed under the Bush doctrine of global improvement.

Iran may be nervous but it is not taking all this lying down. At present, it appears to be pursuing a three-pronged diplomatic strategy. One leg concerns Britain and the EU. Europe's commissioner for external relations, Chris Patten, was in Tehran this week to discuss a trade agreement between Iran and the EU. Such contacts are part of the overall EU policy of "critical engagement" with Iran, which European countries prefer to Washington's more confrontational approach. Patten is no patsy. He made clear, as before, that improved relations and economic ties were linked to improvements in human rights. The EU is also concerned about WMD and terrorism, and in particular the reported development of longer range Shahab-3 missiles. Patten urged Iran to sign up to the International Atomic Energy Authority's "additional protocol" concerning nuclear inspections. He also made a point of emphasising that this sort of candid dialogue was a model that the US would do well to emulate. Almost at the same time as Patten was in Tehran, Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, was rolling out the red carpet for Kamal Kharrazi, Iran's foreign minister, who was making a ground-breaking visit to London. There was a symbolic element to this meeting. But it had practical intent, too. Kharrazi believes Blair has influence with Washington and that Britain will play a significant role in forging a post-war settlement in Iraq. He may also be making a point to conservative mullahs at home who oppose engagement with the West. For his part, Blair wants Iranian acquiescence in what is now planned for Iraq, as was the case in Afghanistan in 2001-2. And he wants to build the relationship. He certainly does not want to be dragged into yet another Middle East war - Iraq has already caused him enough grief at home.

The Iranian diplomatic counter-offensive also postulates maintaining and developing ties with Russia, where president Vladimir Putin has shared interests in, for example, collaboration on energy development. Putin is a pragmatist when it comes to dealing with Washington. But like Iran, he is not prepared to be pushed around - and has so far rejected the US pressure to cut back ties with Iran. More intriguing perhaps is Iranian president Mohamad Khatami's recent visit to India. This trip seems to have produced agreement that the possibility that Islamist extremists might seize power in Pakistan must be jointly resisted. Both Iran and India, home of the biggest Shia muslim population in the world after Iran, want to contain a Sunni fundamentalism that potentially threatens the interests of both. The Khatami visit also reportedly brought agreement that in any new war between India and Pakistan, Iran would grant Delhi access to its military bases. Here, apparently, is the next, post-Taliban stage of the Iran-Pakistan stand-off. And here, also, was an interesting rebuff to the US by India which, despite being Washington's new best friend in the region, implicitly rejected its criticism of the Khatami visit.

None of this may influence the views of the hawks in the Bush administration who share Israel's hostile view of Iran and place it high up on their geo-strategic "to-do" list. But they should take notice all the same. Iran is not an inherently weak police state like Iraq. It is not a friendless dictatorship. It is not a reckless, impoverished regime like that in North Korea. Nor will it be easily bought off or subdued. Iran, or Persia, was a proud, powerful and resourceful nation long before America was ever thought of. And for Bush and his bully-boy pals, Iran would be a bridge too far. They should stop posturing and start talking.

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