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2003-03-11 - 4:28 p.m.

:::News and Commentary, Mar. 11th:::

Don't Mess With Me!I took the day off yesterday to do some creative writing for a change and I must say, it was a smashing success (laughs). But since there is some interesting news out there from the last few days, I thought I would take some time this afternoon to catch you all up on the News and Commentary. So on with the News!


GOP fails to end Democratic filibuster on Estrada

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a blow to the Bush administration, Senate Republicans failed Thursday (Mar. 6th) to break a Democratic filibuster on the judicial nomination of Miguel Estrada.

President Bush called the Democratic blockade "a disgrace," and GOP senators denounced what one described as "simple raw politics."

But Senate Democrats said they extended the debate because Estrada refused to answer some questions during his confirmation hearing. They also said the White House has rebuffed efforts to get Estrada's memos from his days at the Justice Department.

The Senate voted 55-44 to end debate, five votes short of the 60 needed for such a move. The vote came after weeks of often angry debate on Estrada's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Estrada, 42, would be the first Hispanic to sit on that court, which often serves as a steppingstone to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Woooohoooo!!! This is good news! Another Rightwingnut halted from dragging our country further into the dark ages! Let's celebrate! Click on the link above and read the full report.



Dressed in a death shroud and wearing the mask of death, an anti-war protester is arrested by Capitol Hill police near the U.S. Capitol Sunday, March 9, 2003 during a protest opposing a possible war with Iraq. Several hundred people in opposition to the impending war gathered on the National Mall near the Capitol as part of a protest sponsored by the anti-war group Iraq Pledge of Resistance. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


U.S. Tests Massive Bomb Near Florida

ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer, writes: The Air Force on Tuesday tested for the first time the biggest conventional bomb in the U.S. military's arsenal, a 21,000-pound munition that could play a dramatic role in an attack on Iraq.

Cheryl Irwin, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the test was completed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., but she did not know whether it was considered successful.

The bomb, known as the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, is guided to its target by satellite signals. It was dropped out the rear of a C-130 transport plane, officials said.

The bomb is so powerful that its detonation was expected to create a mushroom cloud visible for miles.

Asked about the test at a Pentagon news conference, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld would not say whether it would be used in an Iraq war and he declined to discuss its capabilities.

"This is not small," he said.

Separately, the Pentagon's No. 2 official said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars that if President Bush decides to invade Iraq, it will be a "war of liberation" as well as an effort to rid Iraq of weapons banned by the United Nations.

"Those very weapons are the source of our concern," said Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. "The issue is not about Iraqi oil. If the United States had wanted access to Iraqi oil, we could have dropped our whole policy 12 years ago, lifted the sanctions and let Saddam Hussein have his weapons of mass destruction."

"No, if there's going to be a war, it will be a war to disarm Saddam's weapons of mass terror," he said. "But it will also be, like wars that you fought in, a war of liberation, a war to secure peace and freedom."

The U.S. military is putting the final pieces of combat power in place in anticipation of an order by Bush to attack Iraq and depose Saddam. More than 200,000 U.S. forces are now within striking range.

The Air Force bomb scheduled for its initial test Tuesday in Florida is much bigger than another conventional bomb. The next-biggest is the 15,000-pound BLU-82, dubbed the Daisy Cutter.

Jake Swinson, spokesman for the Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., said there would be no onsite news coverage of the test for safety reasons, but an Air Force chase plane would take video that would be made available later to news organizations.

Other officials said the Air Force expected to have the bomb available for use in an Iraq war.

"If the warfighter wanted to use it, I'm sure we could make some available," Swinson said, adding that he had no information on whether or when the weapon might be used in combat.


US develops superbomb

JEREMY CAMPBELL AND CHARLES REISS write: The US has made a superbomb which could be used to frighten Iraq into submission.

The giant device contains 21,000lb of high explosive and dwarfs the huge "daisy cutter" bombs used against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon intends to test the bomb and videotape the results as a warning to Iraq of what the US could inflict.

Military planners believe just the sight of the bomb exploding could frighten Iraqi soldiers into surrendering.

Tape of a test of a superbomb was shown on American TV last night, the cloud of its explosion almost as large as a small atomic blast.


The 21,000lb big blue bomb

The new superbomb is an upgrade of an already devastating weapon used by the Americans against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

*Nicknamed Big Blue, it contains 21,000lb of conventional high explosive, an increase from the 15,000lb BLU-82 "daisy cutter" used at least four times on tunnels and caves in Afghanistan.

* It was originally designed to clear helicopter-landing zones in Vietnam and works by detonating a few feet above ground level and destroying everything in its path.

* The warhead is packed with Gelled Slurry Explosive, which is detonated with a high explosive booster. The slurry is poured into the bomb's casing which is then loaded on to a plane and launched by parachute at 6,000ft.

* Eleven BLU-82s were dropped during the first Gulf War, according to some experts "as much for their psychological effect as their destructive power".


U.S., Britain May Extend Iraq Deadline

EDITH M. LEDERER writes: Facing almost certain defeat, the United States and Britain signaled Tuesday they would extend for a short period a deadline for Saddam Hussein to disarm or face war.

France, meanwhile, said it was "open to dialogue" but will not budge on the fundamentals it has championed since the start of the crisis.

While open to extending the deadline for Iraq to prove it has disarmed, Washington and London discounted a 45-day delay sought by six swing nations on the Security Council.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer insisted Tuesday that the resolution would be put to a vote this week but said a proposal being floated to push back the March 17 deadline by a month was "a non-starter."

"There is room for diplomacy here," Fleischer said. "Not much room and not much time."


Questionable Evidence: Is Weapons Case Against Iraq Disintegrating?

As the Bush administration tries to make the case to America and the world that Iraq is trying to rebuild its nuclear weapons program, some top United Nations officials contend that key evidence against Iraq is crumbling.

Before Congress, and in public, President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have repeatedly pointed to aluminum tubes imported by Iraq which they say are for use in making nuclear weapons.

But on Friday, head United Nations nuclear inspector Mohammad ElBaradei told the Security Council that it wasn't likely that the tubes were for that use. ElBaradei also said that documents Bush had cited and relied upon to make the case that Iraq tried to buy uranium from a country in central Africa were fake.

"These documents — which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger — are in fact not authentic," ElBaradei told the United Nations on Friday.

click on the link above to read the full report


Bush's St David e-mail on war is sent back to US

A ST David's Day message from President Bush addressed to the people of Wales was rejected by the National Assembly's Presiding Officer because it contained a reference to war. Lord Elis-Thomas last night disclosed that he had sent the e-mail message back to the American Embassy suggesting that it was forwarded to First Minister Rhodri Morgan.

"I do not accept St David's Day messages when they are not sent in the spirit of St David," said Lord Elis-Thomas, a devout member of the Church in Wales.

President Bush's message, which we publish today for the first time, said, "On behalf of the American people I extend warm greetings to the people of Wales and all those who love Wales as we commemorate St David's Day this March 1, 2003. We join you in celebrating Wales's rich cultural traditions and the deep historical ties between Wales and the United States.

"The people of Wales and America have always had close ties and have been steadfast friends. We have stood together in the world's great struggle for liberty and freedom. Today we are united in the war against terrorism and tyranny and for our shared values of democracy, freedom and justice.

"On behalf of all Americans I wish all Welsh men and women a happy St David's Day."

E-mail records show that Patricia Hoffman, of the US Embassy, sent the message to Rhodri Morgan at 4.59pm on February 28. Twelve minutes later it was sent on by Alun Jones of the Cabinet Secretariat to the three other party group leaders and back to Lord Elis-Thomas. The message was not distributed to the media.


Blix denies cover-up after second unreported find

THE chief United Nations weapons inspector denied yesterday that he was covering up finds in Iraq, even as it emerged that a second discovery had gone unreported to the UN Security Council.

The same declassified UN report that revealed that inspectors had found an undeclared 7.45-metre drone also contained new information about the discovery in December of modified aircraft fuel tanks capable of spraying germ or chemical agents.

But Hans Blix, the chief inspector, shrugged off suggestions by American and British officials that he tried to hide bad news from Security Council Foreign Ministers in his oral presentation last Friday. “Everyone tries to squeeze us to get as much mileage out of us as they can,” Dr Blix said after John Negroponte, the US Ambassador, questioned him about the drone in a closed-door session of the Security Council. “We have had a lot of work to get the cluster document together and to declassify it and it does take some time to produce these reports as well.”

Click on the link above to read the full report


Iraq destroys more Al Samoud 2 missiles

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — With a U.S.-British deadline for war failing to pick up support, Iraq destroyed more Al Samoud 2 missiles Tuesday in an effort to harden divisions on the U.N. Security Council.

Hiro Ueki, a spokesman for the U.N. weapons inspectors, told reporters that Iraq destroyed three more of the missiles Tuesday. The latest destruction brings to 55 the number of Al Samoud 2s Iraq has crushed since March 1. That was the U.N. deadline for Iraq to begin destroying the rockets, of which it had about 100 in its arsenal.

In addition to the missiles, Ueki said, Iraq has so far destroyed 28 warheads, two casting chambers, two launchers and five engines — all associated with the Al Samoud 2 program, said Ueki. Tools and computer software used for launching have also been destroyed.

Click on the link above to read the full report


U.S. halts surveillance flights in Iraq

BARRY SCHWEID reports: - Iraqi fighter jets threatened two American U-2 surveillance planes, forcing them to abort their mission and return to base, senior U.S. officials said Tuesday.

In Baghdad, an Iraqi official described the incident as a "technical mistake" by the U.N. inspectors

Ewen Buchanan, spokesman for UNMOVIC, the U.N. inspection agency, said Iraq officials had been notified of the timing of the flight, but "they expressed surprise and concern that two flights were operating simultaneously. In the interest of safety, UNMOVIC requested the aircraft to withdraw."

Click on the link to read the full report


Powell, Rice refuse to back down on spurious nuclear claims

Iraq's efforts to develop nuclear weapons should not be dismissed, even if United States and British statements that Iraqis tried to buy uranium from Niger were wrong, President George Bush's senior foreign policy advisers said yesterday.

Neither the Secretary of the State, Colin Powell, nor the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, acknowledged that documents on which the claim was based were fake, as Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the United Nations.

Both said the agency had come close to pronouncing Iraq free of a nuclear weapons program in the 1990s, only to discover later that it was not.

"I was a little concerned that the IAEA's remarks about the Iraqi nuclear program the other day seemed to draw certain conclusions" that Iraq had not revived its program, Dr Rice told US television. "The IAEA, of course, missed the program in '91, missed the program in '95, missed it in '98. We need to be careful about drawing those conclusions."


Election gives US forces second crack to use Turkey

Turkey's most popular politician, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was elected to Parliament on Sunday, leaving the road clear for him to become prime minister and allow a possible second vote to let United States troops into the country.

Mr Erdogan, the chairman of the governing Justice and Development party, won a seat in the eastern province of Siirt, close to Turkey's border with Iraq, with about 85 per cent of the votes. He was barred from standing in the election that his party won in November because of a conviction for inciting religious hatred. But once his party took power it changed the constitution to enable him to stand.

His election will end the current power-sharing regime, and it is expected that the current prime minister, Abdullah Gul, will stand down in the next few days. A shuffle of top jobs is then likely, with Mr Gul a favourite for foreign minister.

A second vote to let in US troops will be the most pressing issue Mr Erdogan will face. The parliament narrowly rejected the deployment of up to 62,000 troops a week ago.

Click on the link to read the full report


Washington furious at Israeli leaks over Iraq attack

JERUSALEM, March 10 (AFP) - The United States has complained to Israel about constant leaks by senior security officials about the date of an attack on Iraq, Israel media said Monday.

But US ambassador Dan Kurtzer told reporters after meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom that media reports that Washington will not alert its close ally before any attack as a result of the leaks were baseless.

"Washington sent in the past few days a message expressing its concern" over the leaks, said army radio.

As a result of the complaints, the Israeli foreign ministry has asked Israeli diplomats not to talks about Iraq, ministry officials said.

The daily Maariv said Washington was "seething" at the leaks and that "as a result security establishment officials have decided to assume that the offensive will come as a complete surprise."

But Kurtzer denied that Washington would punish Israel by withholding the exact timing of its planned attack to oust Saddam Hussein and disarm Iraq.

"The cooperation between our two countries is unbelievably good and it is unparalleled in the history of our relations, and there's no way we are going to surprise our ally. I don't know where those press reports came from but they are without foundation," he said.

The head of military intelligence, General Aharon Zeevi told the cabinet Sunday that a US attack could begin as soon as next week, even if the UN Security Council vetoes a new resolution explicitly authorising the use of force to disarm Iraq.

He said Washington was just waiting to see if Turkey would allow it to deploy troops on its soil to attack Iraq from the north.


Were Neo-Conservatives’ 1998 Memos a Blueprint for Iraq War?

Years before George W. Bush entered the White House, and years before the Sept. 11 attacks set the direction of his presidency, a group of influential neo-conservatives hatched a plan to get Saddam Hussein out of power.

The group, the Project for the New American Century, or PNAC, was founded in 1997. Among its supporters were three Republican former officials who were sitting out the Democratic presidency of Bill Clinton: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz.

In open letters to Clinton and GOP congressional leaders the next year, the group called for "the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power" and a shift toward a more assertive U.S. policy in the Middle East, including the use of force if necessary to unseat Saddam.

And in a report just before the 2000 election that would bring Bush to power, the group predicted that the shift would come about slowly, unless there were "some catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor."

That event came on Sept. 11, 2001. By that time, Cheney was vice president, Rumsfeld was secretary of defense, and Wolfowitz his deputy at the Pentagon.

The next morning — before it was even clear who was behind the attacks — Rumsfeld insisted at a Cabinet meeting that Saddam's Iraq should be "a principal target of the first round of terrorism," according to Bob Woodward's book Bush At War.

What started as a theory in 1997 was now on its way to becoming official U.S. foreign policy.

Click on the link to read the full report


'We are hours behind Bin Laden'

PHIL REEVES in Islamabad writes: Pakistan's intelligence chiefs said yesterday that the net was closing on Osama bin Laden and confirmed that a senior al-Qa'ida suspect captured 10 days ago claimed to have met the fugitive leader in December.

"We appear to be just hours behind him [Bin Laden]," an official said, citing evidence from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al-Qa'ida's alleged chief of operations.

A senior-ranking officer with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) said that Mohammed held out against his interrogators for two days but on the third day began to talk, eventually claiming to have met Bin Laden in December.

But the intelligence officer added that he would not believe this until the captive, who is now in US custody, supplied more details. "I don't believe him unless he tells us the locations and gives us witnesses," he said.

The ISI also cast doubt on reports that Mohammed had been carrying letters written by Bin Laden. An official said: "How can we be sure if we haven't seen his writing?"

An ISI source also said 10 men had been arrested in the northwest city of Peshawar for suspected al-Qa'ida links. One of them was believed to have been in contact with bin Laden.

He said the man, identified only as Masood and reported to be either an Afghan or an Egyptian, had received a telephone call that was traced by agents monitoring al-Qa'ida.

"We think he was in contact with Osama bin Laden," said the source.

Masood was arrested on Saturday with an Iraqi Kurd and an Iranian. Seven other al-Qa'ida suspects were arrested in raids yesterday.


Iran's Nuclear Program Speeds Ahead

JOBY WARRICK and GLENN KESSLER reports: Near the town of Natanz in central Iran, 160 newly minted centrifuges stand in neat rows inside a nuclear complex that the United States and other countries were surprised to learn about only seven months ago. The machines have been tested and judged fully operational, senior Bush administration officials say. Sometime this year they will begin spinning hot uranium gas into nuclear fuel.

In a nearby building, workers are assembling parts for 1,000 more centrifuges, part of a constellation of 5,000 machines that will be linked together in a vast uranium enrichment plant now under construction. When the project is completed in 2005, Iran will be capable of producing enough enriched uranium for several nuclear bombs each year.

Details about the Natanz complex are beginning to trickle out following the first visit to the site by officials from the United Nations late last month. U.S. officials who were briefed on the visit described Iran's progress last week as "startling" and "eye-opening," so much so that intelligence agencies are being forced to dramatically shorten estimates for when Iran may acquire nuclear weapons.

Click on the link to read the full report


Every year, thousands of Adults in the USA get arrested on minor marijuana charges. This puts stress on their families and is causing US tax payers millions of dollars a year. Willie Nelson has been doing radio campaign broadcasts to help legalize marijuana. YEAH WILLIE!!! This is not just to help stoners get their fix, people. This is also to help the thousands of people all over the US who rely on marijuana for medical purposes. If you would like to help with this campaign, check out the following website: NORML: National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws


Missile test by North Korea tied to U.S. snub

North Korea test-fired a medium-range anti-ship missile Monday in another apparent attempt to bring the United States into direct talks on its nuclear program while Washington focuses on going to war in Iraq.

A day after the Bush administration’s two top foreign policy officials ruled out U.S.-North Korean talks for now, the North Korean version of a Chinese-designed Silkworm missile roared off the launch site on the northeastern coast on a 110-kilometer (70-mile) arc into the Sea of Japan.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the missile was fired at about noon shortly after newscasts here showed the American officials, Secretary of State Colin Powell and the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, rejecting bilateral negotiations with the North.

Powell, on CNN, repeating what he told President Roh Moo Hyun of South Korea after attending Roh’s inauguration on Feb. 25, said, ‘‘We’re not going simply to fall into what I believe is a bad practice of saying the only way you can talk to us is directly when it affects other nations in the region.’’

Rice, on ABC, called for bringing ‘‘the weight of the international community in a multilateral fashion to deal with the North Korea threat.’’

South Korea’s leaders, stymied by domestic political and economic problems and wary of upsetting North Korea by critical remarks, were silent on the missile test, the second in two weeks, but analysts believed that its purpose was to warn North Korea’s perceived adversaries.

‘‘They blackmail America and Japan, especially America,’’ said Kim Yoo Sub, a senior analyst at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, which is affiliated with South Koreas Defense Ministry. ‘‘They want to negotiate with the United States.’’

Kim predicted that North Korea’s next step would be to test-fire a version of the Taepodong, a longer-range missile than the Silkworm. North Korea last tested a Taepodong on Aug. 31, 1998, with a shot over the main Japanese island, Honshu.

North Korea, after tense talks, agreed one year later not to fire another missile for a year and then extended the moratorium at least until Kim Dae Jung stepped down as president of South Korea.

Several hours before Roh was sworn in as Kim’s successor, North Korea fired a ground-to-ship missile, but defense analysts have said the test was basically a failure. The missile apparently exploded in midair before it could reach its dummy target in the Sea of Japan.

Before both tests, according to U.S. and Korean officials, North Korea broadcast warnings to ships to stay clear of the site where the missile was likely to land. United States, South Korean and Japanese officials have been saying for the last three days that North Korea planned to test another missile in the area.

Against this background, Japanese leaders saw little or no direct danger from the firing of the missile. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said North Korea understood the consequences of firing a missile directly at Japan, especially in view of assurances by U.S. officials that they would regard an attack on Japan as an attack on their own country.

While the missile tests have posed no danger to any foreign power, analysts saw them as disturbing indications of North Korea’s strategy for dealing with demands by the United States to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

‘‘North Koreans continue to find ways to remind people they’re there and they’re unsatisfied,’’ said Scott Snyder, director of the Asia Foundation here. ‘‘The danger is the more creative they get, the more the risk of a miscalculation. They’ve implemented a strategy of escalation of the crisis.’’

North Korea hopes ‘‘to raise the tempo high enough so there’s dialogue even though the Bush administration has said it’s not going to work that way,’’ Snyder said, adding, ‘‘The danger is, both sides are on a collision course.’’

John Barry Kotch, a professor at Hanyang University, who has written extensively on negotiations with North Korea, saw the missile tests as possibly the precursor to another incident on the opposite side of the Korean Peninsula, off the west coast in the Yellow Sea, where North and South Korean navy vessels clashed last June.

‘‘What worries me is maybe they’ll fire the next one in the Yellow Sea,’’ said Kotch. ‘‘What else is there to fire at?’’ Five South Korean sailors died in the exchange last June, and at least 40 North Koreans are believed to have died in a naval battle in the same waters in June 1999.

The second missile was fired Monday in the midst of a lavish luncheon at which Caspar Weinberger, U.S. defense secretary in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan, in his capacity as chairman of Forbes magazine, welcomed the launch of a Korean edition of the magazine. At the lunch, Weinberger characterized a 1994 Geneva agreement, under which North Korea pledged to give up its nuclear weapons program, as ‘‘a prime example of appeasement at work.’’

If the United States failed ‘‘to clear up Iraq’’ militarily, he said, ‘‘it will send a clear signal for Kim Jong Il,’’ the North Korean leader.

‘‘If we do our job properly in Iraq, they might learn some lessons,’’ Weinberger said.

Kim ‘‘might conclude its better to change his behavior rather than get ousted or risk regime change.’’


Democratic Hopefuls Find Antiwar Minefield in Iowa

SIOUX CITY, Iowa, March 9 — Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri came here today for a thoughtful Sunday morning living room conversation with Iowa Democrats about the issues of his emerging presidential campaign: education, health care and pension.

But for 25 minutes, Mr. Gephardt was badgered about his support for President Bush's Iraq policy in a tense session that finally ended when the local Democratic chairman said Mr. Gephardt was running behind schedule. In an instant, Mr. Gephardt was out of the room headed to his next stop.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts came to Iowa on Saturday to give a speech in Des Moines about women's issues. But he arrived to the shouts of antiwar demonstrators, and a meeting with local Democrats turned into an anguished discussion about what was taking place in Washington and Iraq and Mr. Kerry's support for the Iraq resolution passed by Congress last October.

Even Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who has repeatedly presented himself as the antiwar candidate to what Democrats said has been notable success here, expressed frustration at what he encountered as he tried to talk about farm prices on Friday.

"I had a press conference and it was all about the war," Dr. Dean said. "And finally I said, `Would anybody like to talk about the enormous jump in the unemployment rate that was announced in the morning papers?' "

Click the link above to read the full report


A Far-Right Texan Inspires Antiwar Left

A far-right Republican congressman from Texas is looking like a voice of reason to the antiwar left.

Ron Paul is a political iconoclast who takes his libertarian ideology seriously. He's a cheerful advocate of all sorts of unpopular causes like abolishing the federal minimum wage and returning to the gold standard.

That few of his ideas will ever catch on doesn't deter him one bit. Rep. Paul's nickname is "Dr. No" because he votes against so many things, often alone. Despite his lack of clout in Congress, he ran as the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate in 1988, drawing less than one half of 1% of the vote.

But on an Iraq war Mr. Paul is finding plenty of allies, especially at the other end of the political spectrum. Unlike his fellow Texas Republican in the White House, the retired obstetrician believes Saddam Hussein poses no direct threat to Americans and wants the U.S. to mind its own business. A fiscal conservative, he also believes the country can't afford the war's potentially staggering cost.

"Ultimately, our money, weapons, and interventionist policies never buy us friends for long," Mr. Paul wrote in one of his recent columns, which are published on a range of Web sites, including libertarian and Christian. "And more often we simply arm our future enemies."

Click on the link above to read the full report


Second US diplomat quits over war

A veteran US diplomat resigned today in protest over US policy toward Iraq, becoming the second career foreign service officer to do so in the past month.

John Brown, who joined the State Department in 1981, said he resigned because he could not support Washington's Iraq policy, which he said was fomenting a massive rise in anti-US sentiment around the world.

In a resignation letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Brown said he agreed with J Brady Kiesling, a diplomat at the US embassy in Athens who quit in February over President George W Bush's apparent intent on fighting Iraq.

"I am joining my colleague John Brady Kiesling in submitting my resignation from the Foreign Service - effective immediately - because I cannot in good conscience support President Bush's war plans against Iraq," he said.

"Throughout the globe the United States is becoming associated with the unjustified use of force," Brown said in the letter, a copy of which he sent to AFP.

"The president's disregard for views in other nations, borne out by his neglect of public diplomacy, is giving birth to an anti-American century," he said.

"I joined the Foreign Service because I love our country," Brown said. "Respectfully, Mr Secretary, I am now bringing this calling to a close, with a heavy heart but for the same reason that I embraced it."

Two senior State Department officials confirmed that Powell had received the letter from Brown, who had served at the US embassies in London, Prague, Krakow, Kiev, Belgrade and Moscow before being assigned to be a diplomat-in-residence at Georgetown University in Washington.

Brown and Kiesling are believed to be the only US diplomats to have resigned from the foreign service over Iraq to date.


The 'macho president' ignores calls for peace

HELEN THOMAS writes: President Bush's prime-time televised news conference provided him a great opportunity to make his case that Saddam Hussein's Iraq is a ''direct threat'' to the United States. Bush failed to do so, mainly because the facts don't support his viewpoint.

The president certainly convinced me that he will go to war against Iraq within days. The overwhelming theme of his Thursday evening news conference is that war is inevitable, no matter what the U.N. Security Council decides.

The event seemed timed to preempt chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix's report on Iraq's compliance with disarmament directives.

''Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country, to our people and to all free people,'' Bush said.

''We are determined to confront threats wherever they arise,'' he added. ``And I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons.''

It apparently does not matter to Bush that some longtime U.S. allies -- as well as Russia and China -- oppose his plans for war. That is typical of his whole go-it-alone approach to foreign policy.

Although he produced no proof, Bush kept trying to link Hussein with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. His lame reasoning seemed to go like this: ``Iraq is a part of the war on terror. Iraq is a country that has got terrorist ties. It's a country with wealth. It's a country that trains terrorists; it could arm terrorists.''

The usually macho president was strangely tranquil throughout the news conference, speaking in a monotone, picking out reporters to call on from a prepared script.

Bush insisted that he had tried ''diplomacy'' with Hussein, but it did not work.

During the Bush administration, I have never seen any U.S. peace overtures to Iraq, although there were some conciliatory gestures made at the United Nations to ease sanctions on food and medicine.

Bush seems on a messianic mission and believes that war will bring great benefits to the Iraqi people under the occupation and rule of the United States.

The Democratic congressional leaders, including Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, are becoming restive about Bush's war plans and are urging more time for inspections.

Also, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is having second thoughts about having voted last October for the resolution authorizing the president to take military action against Iraq. He accused Bush of acting like ''a cowboy who rode out of Texas'' with ''all guns blazing'' instead of seeking a diplomatic solution.

There is no doubt that Bush's hawkish advisors, who have Iraq as our Enemy No. 1 and coveted U.S. dominance of the Persian Gulf, are having their day with the president.

ABC-TV's Ted Koppel Nightline program recently discussed reports that Bush has been influenced by the Project for the New American Century, which proposes that the United States assume military control of the Gulf region.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz are members of the advisory committee for the project. It is a pity that only the ultra conservatives influence Bush, a neophyte in foreign affairs. He apparently hears no other voices. Representatives of church and peace groups are not welcome to the White House these days.

Bush did meet with the papal emissary in the White House recently, but Bush aides tried to play it down. Oval Office news coverage was limited to photographers. That's a sad commentary on the president's ability to tolerate other points of view, particularly on the question of war and peace.

Helen Thomas, a longtime White House correspondent, is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers.

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(this means keep your fingers off my template! ::wicked grin::)