19 April 2003

The Second Coming
W B Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
one picture tells a thousand lies II
From the Memory Hole. Link courtesy of Warblogging.

18 April 2003

John Berger at Open Democracy:

'If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure.' George W. Bush

Baghdad has fallen. The city has been taken by the troops who were bringing it freedom. Its hospitals are wailingly overcrowded with burnt and maimed civilians, many of them children, and all of them victims of the computerised missiles, shells and bombs launched by the city's liberators. The statues of Saddam Hussein have been overturned. Meanwhile at a Pentagon press conference, the US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld is suggesting that the next country to be liberated may be Syria.
chaos continues
From OXFAM's director, writing in the Guardian:

The coalition forces are obliged under the Geneva Conventions to maintain law and order and ensure that humanitarian assistance gets through to those who need it. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has already reminded the coalition of these obligations.

If order is not restored, the looting will tip a fragile situation into a violent and chaotic one that could lead to people fleeing their homes. The refugee flows we have not yet had to face may yet become a reality. Civilians, already innocent victims of the war, could become the principal casualties of a bloody aftermath.

Even if the refugee flows do not emerge, the looting has damaged food stores, warehouses, schools and public buildings that will be vital to the reconstruction of Iraq. It pits Iraqi against Iraqi and creates resentments that will simmer for years in a country already split into a mosaic of tribal, ethnic and religious groups.

All the more important, then - as well as restoring law and order - to start listening to people in the region and reassure the people of Iraq that they will play a key role in defining their future.

From the Red Cross on the legal responsibilities of the occupying powers are clear.

When a territory is placed under the authority of a hostile army, the rules of international humanitarian law dealing with occupation apply. Occupation confers certain rights and obligations on the occupying power.

The rules of international humanitarian law apply whenever a territory comes under enemy control during an armed conflict.

Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations states that a "territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised." While the Geneva Conventions do not define occupation, the Fourth Convention nevertheless contains provisions applicable in occupied territories.

Since occupation does not imply sovereignty over a territory, the occupying power may not alter the legal status of protected persons. Occupation confers certain rights and obligations on the occupying power.

The duties of the occupying power include restoring and ensuring, as far as possible, public order and safety; providing the population with food and medical supplies; agreeing to relief schemes undertaken by other States or impartial humanitarian organizations if the population is inadequately supplied; maintaining medical facilities and services; ensuring public health and hygiene; and facilitating the work of educational institutions.

The occupying power must uphold the criminal laws of the occupied territory and may suspend them only when they constitute a threat to the occupying power or an obstacle to the application of international humanitarian law. Should legal proceedings be instituted against protected persons, the occupying power must respect all judicial guarantees and ensure a regular trial for such persons.

Prohibited actions include forcibly transferring protected persons from the occupied territories to the territory of the occupying power; compelling protected persons to serve in the armed forces of the occupying power; and pillage.

At what point are the occupying powers going to establish a government and start meeting their responsibilities to the Iraqi people? And at what point are Australia, Britain and Poland the junior partners, going to start demanding that humanitarian relief be a priority? Or will the Bush administration solve the problem by withdrawing from the Geneva conventions?

When the coalition abandoned itnernational law they excluded the UN from the picture. Now, of course, they need the UN and the NGOs. This is the clearest explanation possible of why the Bush doctrine cannot and will not work.

Christians today celebrate the Passion of Christ. Both Bush and Blair proclaim themselves devout and committed Christians. Bush claims that Christ is his favourite political philosopher.

He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.� Then the king will say to those on his right, "My father has blessed you!� Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created.� When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink.� When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear.� When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me."

17 April 2003

L'�clatante victoire de Sarrebruck
Arthur Rimbaud

remport�e aux cris de Vive l'Empereur!

Au milieu, l'Empereur, dans une apoth�ose
Bleue et jaune, s'en va, raide, sur son dada
Flamboyant ; tr�s heureux, - car il voit tout en rose,
F�roce comme Zeus et doux comme un papa ;

En bas, les bons Pioupious qui faisaient la sieste
Pr�s des tambours dor�s et des rouges canons,
Se l�vent gentiment. Piton remet sa veste,
Et, tourn� vers le Chef, s'�tourdit de grands noms !

A droite, Dumanet, appuy� sur la crosse
De son chassepot, sent fr�mir sa nuque en brosse,
Et : " Vive l'Empereur !!! " - Son voisin reste coi...

Un schako surgit, comme un soleil noir... - Au centre,
Boquillon rouge et bleu, tr�s na�f, sur son ventre
Se dresse, et, - pr�sentant ses derri�res - : " De quoi ?... "
Death to the Easter Bunny!
May al-Sahhaf feast on the bone marrow of the accursed vermin!

16 April 2003

Sony in 'shock and awe' blunder
As noted earlier Sony sought a patent for the nasty phrase to use in a game release. They'ce changed their minds according to the BBC:

Electronics giant Sony has admitted "regrettable bad judgement" in attempting to register the phrase "shock and awe" - derived from US military tactics in Iraq - for its computer games division.

The company said it had withdrawn a trademark filing in the US for the phrase, which refers to the deliberately intimidating bombing techniques used in the early phase of the war.

The company said it had had no specific plans for the phrase, but it could have been used for one of the many shoot-'em-up games on its Playstation console.

"[Sony] concurs with the views of those who have expressed strong criticisms regarding this conduct," it said in a statement.

"Steps will be taken to heighten awareness throughout the Sony Group so as not to repeat such issues."
down home on the ranch
From the Prime Minister of Australia

MITCHELL: Just finally, you've been invited to George Bush's ranch, which is a pretty big deal. Do you ride a horse?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I haven't done a lot of that Neil.

MITCHELL: Are you going to have some lessons?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I don't think in the time available I could get up to sufficient style to do that.

MITCHELL: Thank you for your time.


Just for the record this is Howard's twentieth interview since the outbreak of war.
The Missing Gesture
Edward Said is professor of comparative literature at Columbia University and a leading Palestinian thinker. This comment is from his talk on February 20 to the UCLA International Institute.

My friend Daniel Barenboim ? the Israeli-born musician with whom I co-sponsor music seminars between Israeli and Palestinian students ? is most exceptional. He is exceptional because he understands what no Israeli politician understands: Much more important than fighting over who is right and who is wrong is the need for a gesture ? a gesture of compassion, a gesture of acknowledgment and responsibility. No Israeli leader has ever, ever, made a gesture of this sort toward the Palestinians. Not one. None. Not one gesture saying, ?We are responsible for what happened? in 1948 and afterward, the way the Poles have said, for example, about what they did to the Jews. Even the Japanese have acknowledged what they did to the Chinese.

One of the qualities that distinguishes Barenboim is that he was curious to see who we Palestinians were. Like so many Israelis, he grew up never meeting a Palestinian. But then he wanted to see us, to meet us. Not for the Palestinians? sake, but for his own. He wanted to understand because we occupy the same land. He wanted to look honestly at the whole picture.

What is missing, therefore, from the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict is someone on the political level like Barenboim who provides a compassionate, universalizing view of the whole?someone like Nelson Mandela who will say ?we can find a way of living together, each in our own manner, as equals, despite the past.? The starting point of this future, though, is not a plan but a gesture?a gesture of responsibility for the past.

This is important because I fear that there are also gestures which are the opposite of compassionate and universalizing and that recent days have seen too many such gestures in Iraq.
The war to save the US dollar
Dr Gavin R. Putland (First released March 26, 2003; revised April 15, 2003.)

The Americans could live with Saddam until he started selling oil for euros instead of US dollars. Then the Europeans could live with him.

The USA emerged from World War II as the world's biggest national economy and the only great power whose industrial base was not damaged by the war. America's huge productive capacity made the US dollar the easiest currency to spend in the global market and consequently the most acceptable foreign currency outside the USA. By the late 1950s, however, the recovery of Europe and Japan caused a suspicion that there were too many dollars in circulation. Central bankers began to exchange their dollars for gold under the terms of the 1944 Bretton Woods treaty, whereby the currencies of participating countries were backed by gold. In 1971, in response to the depletion of US gold reserves, President Richard Nixon announced that the dollar would no longer be redeemable for gold. So the system of fixed exchange rates via gold-backing fell apart. Everyone thought that the dollar would decline in value as traders relied less on the dollar and more on the emerging European and Asian currencies. But support for the dollar came from an unlikely quarter.

In 1973, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quadrupled the price of oil but continued to accept only US dollars in payment, so that demand for dollars soared. From then on, the dollar was effectively backed by oil instead of gold -- and the US government didn't even have to own the oil!

Because dollars can buy oil, exporters in countries that need to import oil -- i.e. most developed countries -- will accept dollars for their exports. Hence everyone who needs to buy from those exporters will accept dollars as payment for other things, and so on. To pay their bills, importers must have reserves of dollars. To prop up their currencies against speculative attacks, the central banks of all countries must have reserves of dollars. To get capital, poor countries must borrow dollars, and to service these debts they must export goods to obtain more dollars. About 2/3 of all currency reserves, more than 4/5 of all currency transactions, more than half of the world's exports, and all loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are denominated in dollars. As these things create demand for the dollar and shore up its value, oil exporters are the more willing to accept payment in dollars. So the process is self-reinforcing; it's called 'dollar hegemony'.

In the late 1970s, falling oil prices reduced demand for the dollar while mounting third-world debt reduced confidence in dollar-denominated deposits. The US Federal Reserve defended the dollar by raising interest rates to record levels. Heavily indebted poor countries are still paying for that episode. But the second oil-price shock (1979-80) restored demand for the dollar.

So America can export dollars, which cost nothing to produce, and receive real goods and services in return. When those dollars eventually find their way into foreign reserves, they can only be invested in American assets. This creates a demand for US treasury bills without high interest rates, and props up the US property market and stock market -- to the benefit of current owners of property and stock, and to the detriment of those full-time workers who live in caravans ('trailers') on the fringes of American cities because they do not 'earn' enough to rent or buy a home. Ordinary home owners may think they benefit from rising land prices; but in fact, every time an owner moves to a new home, the higher sale price of the old home is offset by the higher purchase price of the new one. The real winners are the big investors.

But the continuous inflow of foreign investment (on the 'capital account') is needed to balance America's mammoth trade deficit (on the 'current account'). America's imports now exceed its exports by almost 50%, or 5% of GDP. Its net foreign debt is more than a quarter of annual GDP, and its public debt is about 60% of annual GDP.

If oil exporters were to abandon the dollar for some other currency, the whole process would slam into reverse. Central banks and other traders would sell down their dollar reserves, causing the value of the dollar to plummet (and devaluing the debts of poor countries at the expense of their creditors). Interest rates would rise to maintain the demand for US treasury bills. The US property market would deflate (and poor Americans could more easily afford a home, at the expense of current property owners). The US stock market, being more volatile than the property market, would fall faster. Some investors who have bought American property and stocks with borrowed money would declare themselves bankrupt, causing some American banks to fail under the weight of bad debts. The newly liberated dollars could only be spent on American goods and services, which would begin to flow out of the country (reducing average living standards), while the glut of dollars chasing these same goods and services would fuel domestic inflation. As the flow of foreign investment dried up, America could no longer run a trade deficit, but would have to export real goods and services to pay for its imports and to service its massive foreign debt and to accumulate reserves of the new global currency -- whatever that currency might be...

In 1999, eleven member states of the European Union (EU) adopted the euro as a common accounting currency. Greece joined the Eurozone a year later. On 1 January 2002, the twelve countries withdrew their old money from circulation, completing the biggest currency reform in history.

The Eurozone already has a bigger share of world trade than the USA. In particular, it imports more oil than the USA and is the main trading partner of the Middle East. It offers higher interest rates than the USA, but does not have a huge foreign debt or trade deficit. Member states must accept tight constraints on budget deficits, and the European Central Bank has an exceptionally strong mandate to preserve the purchasing power of its currency. These things inspire confidence in the euro. In 2002, the central banks of Russia, China, Taiwan and Canada converted some of their reserves from dollars to euros. The strength of the euro also encourages expansion of the EU and puts pressure on current members Denmark, Sweden and the UK to join the Eurozone. In December 2002, ten new countries were accepted for EU membership with effect from May 2004. This will create a common market of 450 million people, which will buy more than half of OPEC's oil.

In summary, the only argument for preferring dollars to euros is that dollars can buy oil. As that argument does not affect OPEC, it would make sense for OPEC to convert most of its reserves to euros by mid 2004. If OPEC were then to price its oil in euros, it would increase demand for the euro, causing a handsome increase in the value of its new euro reserves. Similar arguments apply to non-OPEC oil exporters such as Norway and Russia.

The first OPEC member to show serious disloyalty to the dollar was Iran, which has expressed interest in the euro since 1999. In January 2002, George W Bush named Iran in
his 'axis of evil', provoking a wave of anti-American demonstrations reminiscent of the Khomeini era, and undoubtedly setting back the political and religious liberalization of that country. Undeterred, Iran converted most of its currency reserves to euros during 2002, and a proposal to price Iran's oil in euros has been submitted to the central bank and the parliament.

Let us see whether the Americans find an excuse to destabilize Iran's toddling democracy in favor of a dictatorship that just happens to prefer dollars to euros.

The second offender was Venezuela. In 2000, Venezuela's elected President Hugo Chavez convened a conference on the future of fossil fuels and renewable energy. The report of
the conference, delivered by Chavez to the OPEC summit in September 2000, recommended that OPEC set up a computerized barter system so that members could trade oil for goods and services without the use of dollars or any other currency. The chief beneficiaries would be OPEC's poorer customers, who did not have large currency reserves. Chavez made 13 barter deals. In one of them, Cuba provided health services in Venezuelan villages.

In April 2002 there was a coup against Chavez. The coup was welcomed by the Bush administration and by editorials in numerous American newspapers, but collapsed after two
days, leaving evidence that the US administration was behind it [1].

The third and most blatant offender was Iraq. In October 2000, Saddam decreed that Iraqi oil would be sold for euros instead of dollars, with effect from November 6. Soon afterwards, Saddam converted Iraq's entire $10 billion 'oil for food' reserve fund from dollars to euros. These events went unreported in the US media.

Given America's record of toppling elected governments whose policies it didn't like (as in Chile, Nicaragua, and almost Venezuela), it is hard to believe that the motives of Operation Iraqi Freedom were as pure as its name suggested, especially considering how cheap 'freedom' has become in US domestic politics [see the Appendix]. The test of America's sincerity will be whether the new regime continues to sell Iraqi oil for euros.

Having occupied Iraq, America then stepped up its rhetoric against neighboring Syria. Coincidentally, Syria would like to sell oil for euros because most of its imports are purchased with euros.

[1] See href='http://www.fair.org/press-releases/venezuela-editorials.html
http://www.observer.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,688071,00.html .

For the sources of the oil-currency-war theory, see
http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0215-05.htm and
http://www.feasta.org/documents/papers/oil1.htm plus the
links on that page.
On the fortunes of the US dollar,
see http://www.npq.org/archive/1987_fall/adventures.html

On the causes and effects of overpriced real estate, see

For more reflections on the economic significance of natural resources, see
http://www.prosper.org.au and
http://www.earthsharing.org.au .

Over 100 death-row prisoners in the USA have been found to be innocent since 1973. If we add non-death-row prisoners found innocent after serving years in prison, the number rises to over 200. More than two thirds of these people got NO COMPENSATION. Not even reimbursement of legal costs. Not even back-pay at standard rates for the work they had to do in prison.

Only 15 of the 50 American States have laws providing compensation for wrongful imprisonment. In 13 of those States the compensation is capped, and the limit is
invariably less than what a film star would expect to receive for a defamatory media report. In the other 35 States the legislature can pay compensation if it wants to, which it usually doesn't. The Federal jurisdiction has a compensation scheme under which the maximum payout is $5000 (yes, five thousand dollars).

� Gavin Richard Putland, March-April 2003.
Permission is given to forward this essay by email, to publish it on WWW sites, and to print it in non-profit newspapers and periodicals, always provided that the essay remains intact and that this copyright notice is included.

15 April 2003

chads hit NSW
From the Sydney Morning Herald

A computer glitch at the New South Wales Electoral Commission has thrown the upper house election results into turmoil and forced officials to manually count the 3,721,116 votes.

The software that distributes the preferences that will decide seats in the Legislative Council has malfunctioned three times in the past week, leaving officials angry and frustrated.

After false starts on Wednesday and Friday, party scrutineers were told yesterday morning that it would be at least tomorrow and possibly after Easter before the problem could be identified and fixed.

The program takes only two hours to spit out the results but if the problem cannot be fixed, the result will rely on the manual count which may take months. This will delay resumption of the upper house, which is due to sit on May 13.

Only 17 of the 21 seats to be declared have been decided by primary votes - a count that has taken 250 data entry operators almost three weeks since the March 22 poll. Labor has won nine seats, the Coalition seven and the Greens one.

The remaining four will be decided by a complicated series of preference distributions that the Electoral Commissioner, John Wasson, said yesterday would be "hard and messy" to complete without the help of computers.

Fortunately there are a couple of big, big differences from Florida. paper ballots give an audit trail and if necessary the count can go ahead by hand. If there are any court challenges the courts will be able to examine individual contested ballots. The whole process is in public hands including the software driving the count.

Third time lucky, the software performed flawlessly this afternoon and the election has now been completed.
trading with the enemy
From the Corporate Crime Reporter:

ChevronTexaco trading with Iraq.

The New York Yankees, Wal-Mart, ESPN, and Caterpillar trading with Cuba.

ExxonMobil and Wells Fargo trading with the Sudan.

These companies are among 59 companies that have settled charges of trading with the enemy brought by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The settlements were released over the past two weeks.

The settlements were publicized today by Corporate Crime Reporter, a weekly newsletter based in Washington, D.C.

While the settlements were posted on OFAC's web site, they were buried here, and the lists went unreported.

Some of the wilder reaches of comment have blamed French, German and Russian governments for trying to block the invasion of Iraq for crass commercial reasons. Undoubtedly that charge is at least partially true. What is also true is that US corporations did a roaring trade with Iraq. It is no surprise that the grubby details of who traded with who have been suppressed. It is equally true that the US government's efforts to restrict postwar tendering to US corporations may have factored into the prospect of US corporate profits.

After all the evidence of Halliburton's dealings with iraq are a matter of public record while one Dick Cheney was CEO of that company.
What's a few books between friends?
From the Guardian:

Almost nothing remains of the library's archive of tens of thousands of manuscripts, books, and Iraqi newspapers, according to reports from the scene. It joins a list that already includes the capital's National Museum, one of the world's most important troves of artefacts from the ancient Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian civilisations.

Calling the looting of historical artefacts "a catastrophe for the cultural heritage of Iraq", Mounir Bouchenaki, a deputy director-general of the UN cultural body Unesco, announced an emergency summit of archaeologists in Paris on Thursday.

Can you imagine the reaction of Bush and Blair if Saddam had allowed the destruction of cultural heritage on this scale? They'd immediately have cited it as evidence of unfitness to govern. Of course, now that the shoe is on the other foot...
archaeological loot
From New Scientist

The museum's curators have criticised US troops for failing to protect the museum, despite repeated requests for help. Tanks were posted outside the museum only briefly on Friday. The US has been accused of violating the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

Archaeologists had warned of such destruction. In an article published in the journal Science on 21 March, experts from six nations said Iraq's heritage was so great that war threatened "irreparable losses both to local communities and to all humanity".

As noted previously, the coalition found it necessary to guard the ministries of oil and interior but not the museum. Their spin now is that they did not know despite the stream of warnings from scientists.
Bush vetoes Syria war plan
From the Guardian:

The White House has privately ruled out suggestions that the US should go to war against Syria following its military success in Iraq, and has blocked preliminary planning for such a campaign in the Pentagon, the Guardian learned yesterday.

Well that, as they say in the classics, is a blessed relief.
how to do regime change V
From Eurasianet

A leading expert on Afghanistan cautioned April 11 that Afghanistan?s attempt to draft a new constitution could prove a "meaningless exercise" without concurrent efforts to improve security in the country?s provinces. The international community?s top priority over the near term should be curtailing the power of Afghan warlords, the expert said. Failure to do so could result in renewed conflict.

Since its formation in June 2002, President Hamid Karzai?s interim administration has been hard pressed to extend its authority in Afghanistan?s regions. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archives]. In many key provinces ? such as Herat, in western Afghanistan, and Balkh in the North ? Kabul?s power is eclipsed by local militia leaders. The relative weakness of centralized authority in Afghanistan poses a major threat to the successful implementation of the country?s new constitution, ratification of which is expected later this year.

"There is a risk that [the constitutional drafting process] could become a meaningless exercise," Barnett Rubin, an Afghanistan expert who helped draft the 2001 Bonn process for Afghanistan?s political reconstruction, told an Open Forum at the Open Society Institute in New York.

"The most important thing outsiders can do is to create the conditions that will make it possible for the constitution to mean anything," Rubin said in arguing for a more vigorous international effort to contain "warlordism" in Afghanistan.

The war party proclaim their object as Iraqi democracy. They also proclaimed their object as Afghan democracy. Why should we believe their promises in Iraq when we see their record in Afghanistan?
subjunctive mobile labs found, maybe, perhaps, possibly, they think so, well actually...
From CNN

KARBALA, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. troops have found 11 mobile laboratories buried south of Baghdad that are capable of biological and chemical uses, a U.S. general said Monday.

There were no chemical or biological weapons with the containerized labs, which measure 20 feet square. But soldiers recovered "about 1,000 pounds" of documents from inside the labs, and the United States will examine those papers further, said Brig. Gen. Benjamin Freakley of the Army's 101st Airborne Division.

"Initial reports indicate that this is clearly a case of denial and deception on the part of the Iraqi government," Freakley told CNN's Ryan Chilcote. "These chemical labs are present, and now we just have to determine what in fact they were really being used for."

This is familiar stuff. 1. Nothing has actually been found except a lot of documents. 2. The announcement is in exactly the same format that was used to announce the WMDs that proved to be pesticides, the terror camp that proved not to exist (twice) and the massive chemical factory that proved to be making fertiliser. Lots of 'could haves' and might haves' and 'was capables' but no actual use of the indicative mood.

This cannot be a grammatical convention because we know from Gen Brooks' proclamation of the nonexistent fatwa that they can use the indicative mood when they must.

More to the point the Saddam tyranny no longer exists. The war party cannot have it both ways. Saddam was ready to use WMDs or he was not. His options to use WMDs have now passed. Has he used them or has he not?
CENTCOM issued fatwa, but still no WMDs
Back on 4 April, on one of the several occasions that Najaf fell to the coalition, General Vincent Brooks stated as follows:

The last thing I'll point is, first, in the wake of yesterday's operations near Najaf and -- (inaudible) -- operations to date, a prominent cleric, Grand Ayatollah Sistani (sp), who had been placed under house arrest by the regime for a considerable period of time, issued a fatwa. And it was done this morning, instructing the population to remain calm and to not interfere with coalition actions. We believe this is a very significant turning point, and yet another indicator that the Iraqi regime is approaching its end.

Despite wide publicity in the Western media that fatwa was almost immediately denied by its alleged author, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest Shi'a authority in Iraq or eleswhere.

The only Islamic source to confirm the fatwa was the al-Khoei Foundation in London although they later disavowed the fatwa. It's about the most dramatic example of deliberate disinformation (short of the various WMD claims) the coalition has mounted.

14 April 2003

I think it's completely unfair that various bloggers are claiming the coalition entered Baghdad without any planning. They threw a protective cordon around the oil ministry immediately.