Daily Archives: March 29, 2007

Swiss man gets 10 years for defacing images of Thai king

Globe and Mail | Mar 29, 2007

 oliver-jufer2

Oliver Jufer, 57, of Switzerland stands inside the prison vehicle as he arrives at a court in Thailand on Thursday. (AFP/Getty Images)

King Bhumibol, the world’s longest serving monarch, is greatly loved by Thais and regarded by some as semi-divine. He is protected from reproach by strict laws that forbid any criticism of the monarchy.

A Swiss man was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday for spray-painting graffiti over images of Thailand’s revered king, the first conviction of a foreigner in at least a decade under strict Thai laws protecting the monarchy.

Oliver Rudolf Jufer, 57, who had pleaded guilty to five counts of lèse-majesté, or insulting the monarchy, had faced a maximum sentence of 75 years in prison.

Judge Phitsanu Tanbukalee said Mr. Jufer was given a reduced sentence since he had admitted his wrongdoing.

His court-appointed lawyer, Komkrit Kunyodying, called the penalty “appropriate for the crime he has committed,” adding he did not yet know if his client planned to appeal.

The Swiss Embassy issued a tempered criticism.

“We respect the Thai justice system,” said Jacques Lauer, deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Bangkok. “However, we consider the implementation of the Thai penal code regarding lèse-majesté cases a tough one.”

Mr. Jufer was caught by surveillance cameras on Dec. 5 spray-painting black paint over five outdoor posters of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in the northern city of Chiang Mai, where he lived, police and prosecutors said. His lawyer said he was intoxicated during the act.

King Bhumibol, the world’s longest serving monarch, is greatly loved by Thais and regarded by some as semi-divine. He is protected from reproach by strict laws that forbid any criticism of the monarchy.

Rights Group Warns Of Soviet-Style Abuses

Huliq.com | Mar 28, 2007

An international human rights watchdog has warned that rights violations reminiscent of the Soviet era are reappearing in some Eastern European and Central Asian countries.

In its annual report, the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) singled out the governments of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan as repressive regimes that regularly violate human rights.

The report looks at events in 2006 in all of the member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

That includes the United States and Britain, which both come under scrutiny for scaling back judicial and civil rights in the name of combating terrorism.

Torture And Disappearances

Much of the report, however, focuses on Central Asia, Belarus, and Russia’s North Caucasus — regions the IHF made a priority in 2006-07.

There, the IHF argues, authorities have resurrected the tactics of the region’s Soviet past, clamping down on freedom of religion and expression, muffling the political opposition, and — in some regions — allowing torture and disappearances to continue unchecked.

IHF Executive Director Aaron Rhodes says that progress on human rights seems to be on hold.

“In the 1990s, there was some progress being made toward building human rights institutions and building cooperation in international organizations like the Council of Europe and the OSCE,” Rhodes says. “And the UN was also more functional during those years. Now there’s a kind of freezing of progress and in fact backsliding.”

The IHF report says new measures were taken throughout the region to stifle the work of nongovernmental organizations.

In Russia, new legislation enacted in April 2006 forced all NGOs receiving foreign funding to undergo a cumbersome re-registration process and subjected them to punitive tax regimes.

Similar bureaucratic measures aimed at shutting down NGOs have been seen throughout Central Asia as well.

Freedom of assembly was also severely restricted in many CIS countries.

In Belarus, which saw flawed elections return autocratic leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka to an unprecedented third term as president, more than 1,000 activists and opposition politicians were arrested and detained on politically motivated grounds.

Central Asia Abuses

Some of the worst human rights violations were seen in the Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

In Uzbekistan, the IHF report notes, the crackdowns that followed the May 2005 Andijon uprising have continued. It has become increasingly difficult to hold public demonstrations, and dozens of rights defenders have been jailed or placed under house arrest.

Turkmenistan saw near-complete repression of activists and journalists, including RFE/RL Turkmen Service correspondent Ogulsapar Muradova, who died in September 2006 while in police custody. Her children said her body showed signs she had been severely beaten.

The IHF report said the death in December of Turkmenistan’s president-for-life, Saparmurat Niyazov, temporarily raised hopes of reforms. But those hopes were dampened by the opaque and undemocratic elections to elect his successor, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

The IHF also notes that gross human rights abuses continued unabated in Chechnya and elsewhere in the North Caucasus.

And according to Rhodes, new-found energy wealth is negatively affecting human rights in the region: “Because of concerns about energy, European governments in particular are putting human rights on the back burner and there’s an increasing tendency to overlook human rights violations and to pretend that political progress is being made in order to maintain relationships, which will, in turn, ensure energy flows.”

Soviet-style rights abuses widespread in Central Asia: IHF

JURIST News | Mar 27, 2007
 
Rights violations being committed in Central Asia are comparable to abuses perpetrated in the former Soviet Union, according the annual report released Tuesday by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF).

The IHF was particularly critical of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. According to the report, problems in those countries include government interference in the courts, widespread use of torture, and the suppression of political opposition, media and civil society.

Belarus and the Russian North Caucasus region, particularly Chechnya, were listed as priority regions as well. The report also criticized the US for arbitrary detentions at Guantanamo Bay and other rights violations in its fight against terrorism.

Lesbian asks Court to Ban Gay Adoptions

My Fox Houston | Mar 26, 2007

Aside from a few gay friends, she has turned away from the gay community. She no longer dates, and doesn’t go to gay clubs or events any more. She said she is rethinking whether she is still a lesbian or whether she should abandon dating for good.

Sara Wheeler’s life has become a contradiction. Once a proud lesbian, she’s now a pariah in the gay community. Once in a committed relationship with a female partner, she’s rethinking her sexuality.

And now she’s doing something she once would have considered unthinkable — arguing that gays don’t have the legal right to adopt children.

Wheeler is coming to grips with the fact that she’s become an outcast for taking this step in a custody fight for her child. But she says that isn’t what her fight is about: “It’s about motherly rights.”

Wheeler, 36, and her partner, Missy, decided to start a family together and share the Wheeler last name. In 2000, Sara Wheeler gave birth to a son, Gavin, through artificial insemination. Two years later, they decided Missy Wheeler should adopt the child and legally become his second parent.

Georgia law doesn’t specifically say whether gay parents can adopt a child, so the decision was up to a judge in the Atlanta area’s DeKalb County. After an adoption investigator determined that both partners wanted it, the judge cleared the request.

The couple’s relationship later soured. Missy Wheeler wouldn’t comment for this story, but her attorney, Nora Bushfield, said Sara became involved with someone else and wouldn’t let Missy and Gavin see each other.

Sara Wheeler acknowledged the other relationship, saying “regardless of my action, it doesn’t make me a bad mother.”

Sara and Missy Wheeler had split by July 2004, and Missy was fighting for joint custody of the boy.

The two sides do agree about one thing: The case is about a mother’s rights.

“Everybody seems to forget we’re not talking about lesbian rights,” Missy Wheeler’s attorney says. “We’re talking about a child who’s been bonded with a mother.”

Sara Wheeler made the legal argument that, since nothing in Georgia law specifically allowed gay adoption, the adoption should be tossed out.

Her first lawyers warned her the case could set gay rights back a century.

She hired a new attorney and asked the DeKalb County court to toss the adoption that she had previously pushed for, claiming it should never have been approved because it runs afoul of state law.

News of the tactic whipped up Atlanta’s gay community, one of the largest in the South. Lambda Legal, a gay rights group, made a legal filing with the Georgia Supreme Court supporting Missy Wheeler. “There’s something about this case that’s just tragic,” said Greg Nevins, a lawyer for the group.

Laura Douglas-Brown, editor of Southern Voice, the city’s main gay newspaper, penned a column accusing Sara Wheeler of “self-hating.”

“We owe it to each other not to lash out in ways that damage the entire gay community,” she wrote. “Your own family may be destroyed, but don’t destroy ours, too.”

Sara said she felt like she had no choice.

“I’m not doing anything else a mother wouldn’t do to fight for her son,” she said. “Some people may think it’s the unthinkable, but if they were put in my shoes, they’d do the same thing.”

It didn’t go so well. Her lawsuit seeking to throw out the adoption was rejected by the DeKalb County judge and then the state Court of Appeals.

Then the Georgia Supreme Court, in a 4-3 vote in February, declined to hear the case. Only months earlier the court had upheld the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, which Georgia voters overwhelmingly approved in 2004.

Justice George H. Carley, who voted with the minority in the gay adoption case, declared he was “at a loss to comprehend” why the court refused to consider a case of such “great concern, gravity and public importance.”

Sara Wheeler is asking the state Supreme Court to reconsider her case. Such a request rarely succeeds, but the narrow vote gives her hope that one justice might be swayed.

“There’s nothing that states this is an acceptable adoption,” she said. “If Georgia wants to allow it, it needs to make proper laws.”

As the legal motions flew back and forth, the two women established a workable routine. The 7-year-old boy goes to Missy Wheeler’s place every other weekend and on Tuesday nights. The rest of the time Sara Wheeler ferries him to karate practice, plays tag with him outside her apartment and takes him out for pizza every Friday.

The case has taken a toll on Sara.

Aside from a few gay friends, she has turned away from the gay community. She no longer dates, and doesn’t go to gay clubs or events any more. She said she is rethinking whether she is still a lesbian or whether she should abandon dating for good.

“I just don’t feel comfortable in that scene,” she says. “I’m just trying to figure it all out.”

She knows she’s seen as a betrayer; but in a sense, she feels she was the one betrayed.

“Before I’m anything — gay or lesbian — I’m a mother,” she says. “And the most important thing is to make sure my son has a relationship with his biological mother.”

Tillman’s family says ‘horrific things’ not adequately punished

The Olympian | Mar 28, 2007

Pat Tillman’s mother said Tuesday that her greatest disappointment in the latest investigations into her son’s death in Afghanistan was that “horrific” acts by the Army Rangers who shot him were not adequately acknowledged or punished.

“How do you prevent this from happening again unless there’s a serious consequence?” Mary Tillman said.

The congressman who represents the area where the former NFL star grew up called for congressional hearings, echoing the family’s contention that new findings released Monday were insufficient.

“While these may be the most thorough investigations to date, rather than lay to rest troubling questions regarding a personal and national tragedy, however, (Monday’s) reports raise more questions than they answer,” said Rep. Mike Honda, a Democrat.

Honda asked Rep. Ike Skelton, a Missouri Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, to hold hearings and “set right an injustice.” A spokeswoman for the committee said he would consider it.

After a year of investigating, the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command – its version of the FBI – concluded Monday that no crime was committed by the fellow Rangers who shot Tillman in April 2004 after a chaotic ambush in Afghanistan.

Rangers in a convoy trailing Tillman’s group had just emerged from a canyon where they had been fired on. They raced out of the attack, apparently unaware that the first convoy was ahead of them. Adrenaline pumping, the soldiers saw figures standing above them on a ridge, one of them an allied Afghan fighter firing overhead to give them cover.

Tillman waved down at his comrades, trying to signal cease-fire, but the Rangers shot and killed him and the Afghan.

The Tillman family – including Pat’s brother and fellow Ranger, Kevin, who was a few minutes behind Pat Tillman in the trailing convoy – pressed the military investigators who briefed them Monday on violations of the Army’s rules of engagement.

For instance, all four shooters testified they had failed to identify their targets before firing, a direct violation of fire discipline techniques.

At least one of those Rangers turned his fire moments later on a village where witnesses say civilian women and children had gathered. The shooters raked it with fire, U.S. witnesses said; they wounded two additional fellow Rangers, including their own platoon leader.

The family received no satisfactory response on their questions on rules-of-engagement violations, Mary Tillman said. The investigators simply told the Tillmans that they had found no such violations, she said.

“That was their conclusion. They wouldn’t tell us how they came to that conclusion,” she told AP by phone.

“We know rules of engagement were broken,” she said. “There was no acknowledgment that horrific things happened out there at all levels.”

The soldiers who shot at Tillman have argued it was a terrible mistake in the fog of war. The Army embraced that defense Monday, declining to seek charges of negligent homicide or aggravated assault.

“Under extreme circumstances and in a very compressed time frame, the (shooters) had a reasonable belief that death or harm was about to be inflicted on them and believed it was necessary to defend themselves,” the Criminal Investigation Command concluded.

But possible punishments still hang over several high-ranking officers who are accused of botching the investigations and key administrative tasks.

Nine Army officers, including four generals, made errors in reporting the friendly fire death to their superiors and to the Tillman family, the Pentagon said. Defense officials said one or more of the officers who provided misleading information as the military investigated could be charged with a crime.

The subject of the new report’s sharpest criticism was Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger, a now-retired three-star general who was in charge of Army special operations. A central issue is why the Army waited about five weeks after it suspected Tillman’s death was friendly fire before telling his family.

Kensinger knew it was probably friendly fire well before telling the Tillmans, and he “provided misleading testimony” to investigators, the Defense Department acting inspector general’s report said Monday.

Another general blamed in the report is Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, also now retired, who conducted the third Tillman investigation ending in 2005. The new probe found numerous shortcomings with his report.

Jones and Kensinger did not respond to e-mail and phone messages left by The Associated Press.

Mary Tillman said pinning blame on these generals deflects the true responsibility.

“We all believe these generals are just taking the fall,” she said. “I just think Kensinger is being used as a scapegoat, like Gen. Jones. They’re not the worst culprits; they were doing a job – and doing something to cover the hides of people up above,” including then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, she said.

Russia’s rights climate deteriorating, Soviet-style restrictions increasing, activists say

7 News Boston | Mar 28, 2007

Russia’s human rights climate is deteriorating, and Soviet-style restrictions on freedom of speech and expression are multiplying, Russian and international activists warn.

Nina Tagankina, of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said there has been an “overall worsening” of the situation in Russia and that authorities are prohibiting more peaceful protests and rallies.

The Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation said in a report that Russian authorities have imposed tighter restrictions on the freedom of association and were resorting to intimidation and abuse of opposition activists.

“The actions of the police … remind one of the intolerance of political pluralism that existed here in the Soviet Union,” Executive Director Aaron Rhodes said in a statement Tuesday. “Russia is moving toward a one-party state.”

Over the weekend, police in the central city of Nizhny Novgorod violently dispersed an anti-government rally dubbed the March of Those Who Disagree. Three weeks earlier, police in St. Petersburg clubbed protesters and dragged them into waiting buses during a demonstration against President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin policies. An anti-government protest in Moscow in December was similarly quashed by a huge police presence that dwarfed the demonstrators.

The crackdown in Nizhny Novgorod led the United States on Monday to decry “Russian government heavy-handedness” against people trying to exercise democratic rights.

It “raises serious concerns about Russians’ ability to exercise their rights to assembly, free speech and peaceful protest,” State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.

In a letter to Russia’s human rights ombudsman, leading rights activists said the breakup of the demonstrations was blatantly illegal. They also quoted Putin as saying earlier this month that “no one has the right” to deprive dissenters of the right to protest.

“A legal question arises: to what extent is policy in the country determined by the guarantees of the Constitution and to what extent by law-enforcement agencies and local governments?” said the letter, signed by Moscow Helsinki Group chairwoman Lyudmila Alexeyeva, For Human Rights chairman Lev Ponomaryev and 18 other activists.

Tagankina also said a new law imposing tighter restrictions on rights groups violated their freedom of expression and prevented many from operating freely.

A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Putin’s administration does not believe there is a human rights crisis in Russia or that “democracy is in bad condition,” but acknowledges that “like in any country … there is still plenty to be done to improve democratic mechanisms.”

Government Dismissed Iraq Death Toll Report In Full Knowledge It Was Likely Accurate

Infowars | Mar 27, 2007

John Hopkins study put toll at 655,000 but they didn’t want you to know that

Documents obtained by the BBC under a Freedom Of Information Act request have proven that despite public dismissal of last year’s Iraq Death Toll study, published in The Lancet Medical Journal, British Government officials actually backed the methods used by scientists who concluded that more than 600,000 Iraqis have been killed since the invasion.

The study was jointly conducted by the John Hopkins School of Public Health and and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad and compared mortality rates before and after the invasion by surveying 47 randomly chosen areas across 16 provinces in Iraq.

It concluded that as many as 654,965 more Iraqis may have died since hostilities began in Iraq in March 2003 than would have been expected under pre-war conditions. The deaths from all causes—violent and non-violent—are over and above the estimated 143,000 deaths per year that occurred from all causes prior to the March 2003 invasion.

Researchers estimated with 95 per cent certainty that the war and its aftermath have resulted in the deaths of between 426,000 and 794,000 Iraqis.

The researchers spoke to nearly 1,850 families, comprising more than 12,800 people. In nearly 92% of cases family members produced death certificates to support their answers.

At the time of its publication in the Lancet, in October 2006, the media dubbed the study “controversial” purely because it set the death toll a much greater figure than Iraqi Body Count organisation, which says it has recorded about 44,000 to 49,000 civilian Iraqi deaths. The UN and the coalition governements concur with these lower figures.

The John Hopkins estimate was much higher because it the study was derived from a house-to-house survey rather than the other approaches that depend on body counts or media reports, which it says probably overlook “many if not most civilian casualties.”

Britain and Iran face off over sailors

Globe and Mail | Mar 29, 2007

Once again, Tony Bilderblair, the pied-piper who is leading the world into the global warming hoax,  helps to stage another bombing and invasion on any pretext he come up with. Remember B-liar led us into Iraq with his fake “Iraq Dossier” and it looks like he is using this incident to justify nuking Iran. No doubt, the hostages were set up and placed into harms way for this very purpose following the Israeli technique used to bomb the hell out of Lebananese children. It’s called “Order Out of Chaos”. A New World Order, that is.

PW

blair-devil

Britain and Iran have entered an escalating battle of televised propaganda and diplomatic brinksmanship over the imprisonment of 15 British sailors and marines captured in the waters between Iran and Iraq.

At the centre of the battle is Leading Seaman Faye Turney, 26, one of the sailors seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards while inspecting a merchant freight vessel aboard two inflatable patrol boats in the contested waters. She appeared on Iranian television Wednesday, looking distressed, wearing a head scarf and reading a speech in which she appeared to confess to having “trespassed” into Iranian waters. A letter in her handwriting that contained a similar statement was shown.

The British government suspended all links with Iran Wednesday night in response, and British officials produced satellite evidence that they said proved the British launch, attached to a warship patrolling international seas, had never entered Iranian waters.

Iran had initially offered similar proof that the boat had strayed over the marine boundary, but the co-ordinates it offered were shown to be in international waters. Iran later released a revised set of co-ordinates, those ones on the Iranian side of the boundary. British and Iranian officials exchanged counterclaims over the boat’s position throughout the day.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair responded angrily to the stalemate, ending Britain’s comparatively quiet diplomatic efforts to free the prisoners by making direct threats in the House of Commons.

“It is now time to ratchet up the diplomatic and international pressure in order to make sure the Iranian government understands their total isolation on this issue,” he said. “There was no justification whatever for [the sailors’] detention. It was completely unacceptable, wrong and illegal.”

Globalists Love Global Warming

Prison Planet | March 28, 2007

Trilateral Commission, chairman of British Petroleum, CFR, Club of Rome fan hysteria to achieve world government

A common charge leveled against those who question the official orthodoxy of the global warming religion is that they are acting as stooges for the western establishment and big business interests. If this is the case, then why do the high priests of the elite and kingpin oil men continue to fan the flames of global warming hysteria?

The Trilateral Commission, one of the three pillars of the New World Order in alliance with Bilderberg and the CFR, met last week in near secrecy to formulate policy on how best they could exploit global warming fearmongering to ratchet up taxes and control over how westerners live their lives.

At the confab, European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission, Bilderberger and chairman of British Petroleum Peter Sutherland (pictured top), gave a speech to his elitist cohorts in which he issued a “Universal battle cry arose for the world to address “global warming” with a single voice.”

Echoing this sentiment was General Lord Guthrie, director of N.M. Rothschild & Sons, member of the House of Lords and former chief of the Defense Staff in London, who urged the Trilateral power-brokers to “Address the global climate crisis with a single voice, and impose rules that apply worldwide.”

Allegations that skeptics of the man-made explanation behind global warming are somehow doing the bidding of the elite are laughable in the face of the fact that Rothschild operatives and the very chairman of British Petroleum are the ones orchestrating an elitist plan to push global warming fears in order to achieve political objectives.

We have a similar situation to the Peak Oil scam , which was created by the oil industry as a profit boon to promote artificial scarcity, and yet is parroted by environmentalists who grandstand as if they are in opposition to the oil companies.

“In a report titled “The First Global Revolution” (1991) published by the Club of Rome, a globalist think tank, we find the following statement: “In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill…. All these dangers are caused by human intervention… The real enemy, then, is humanity itself.”

“Richard Haass, the current president of the Council on Foreign Relations, stated in his article “State sovereignty must be altered in globalized era,” that a system of world government must be created and sovereignty eliminated in order to fight global warming, as well as terrorism. “Moreover, states must be prepared to cede some sovereignty to world bodies if the international system is to function,” says Haass. “Globalization thus implies that sovereignty is not only becoming weaker in reality, but that it needs to become weaker. States would be wise to weaken sovereignty in order to protect themselves…”

Taylor also points out future British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s admonishment that only a “new world order” (world government) can help fight global warming.

Other attendees at the recent Trilateral meeting raised the specter of climate change as a tool to force through tax hikes.

Calling on the United States government to adopt a “carbon monoxide control policy,” former CIA boss and long term champion of creating a domestic intelligence agency to spy on Americans John Deutch, argued that America should impose a $1-pergallon increase in the gasoline tax under the pretext of fighting pollution.

The lapdog media have proven adept in the past at taking their orders from the elitists in pushing higher taxes in the name of saving the environment.

“When the TC called on the United States to increase gas taxes by 10 cents at a meeting in Tokyo in 1991, The Washington Post, which is always represented at TC and Bilderberg meetings, called for such an increase in an editorial the following day,” reports Jim Tucker .

Tucker writes that an essential means of achieving global government by consent over conquest, as has long been the ultimate goal of the elite, is by “fanning public hysteria” over climate change, encouraging further integration by forcing countries to adhere to international law on global warming. Such restrictions have prevented the development of third world nations and directly contributed to poverty, disease and squalor by essentially keeping them at a stone age level of progress, as is documented in The Great Global Warming Swindle documentary.

People who still trust the platitudes of politicians and elitists who implore us to change our way of life, cough up more tax money, and get on board with the global warming religion save being linked with Holocaust denial , are as deluded and enslaved as the tribes of Mesoamerica who, unaware of the natural phenomenon of a solar eclipse, thought their high priests could make the sky snake eat the Sun, and therefore obeyed their every demand.

Globalists love global warming! Oil industry kingpins, Bilderbergers and Rothschild minions have all put their weight behind it. This is a fraud conceived, nurtured and promulgated by elite, and to castigate individuals for merely questioning the motives behind climate change fearmongering by accusing them of being mouthpieces for the establishment is a complete reversal of the truth.

Terrorized by ‘War on Terror’

Washington Post | Mar 25, 2007

Caveat Lector:

Don’t forget this is one of the founders of the Trilateral Commission, created in the 1970s to set up a trilateral global government composed of three blocs: Europe, Asia and the Americas. Don’t forget that 9/11 was an inside job, is being used as a pretext for global government and that Brzezinski keeps on promoting the official conspiracy theory. And don’t forget that Brzezinski wrote “The Grand Chessboard”, a parallel blueprint with the Project for a New American Century, both of which lay out a scheme to take over western and central Asia, based on the pretext of a “New Pearl Harbor”. Just don’t forget this guy is an agent of the Bilderberg elite, stringing us along, playing fake Hegelian Good Cop opposition to steer us into the New World Order.

PW

How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America

zbigniew_brzezinski

By Zbigniew Brzezinski

The “war on terror” has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration’s elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America’s psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.

The damage these three words have done — a classic self-inflicted wound — is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves. The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare — political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.

But the little secret here may be that the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a “war on terror” did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. The war of choice in Iraq could never have gained the congressional support it got without the psychological linkage between the shock of 9/11 and the postulated existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Support for President Bush in the 2004 elections was also mobilized in part by the notion that “a nation at war” does not change its commander in chief in midstream. The sense of a pervasive but otherwise imprecise danger was thus channeled in a politically expedient direction by the mobilizing appeal of being “at war.”

To justify the “war on terror,” the administration has lately crafted a false historical narrative that could even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By claiming that its war is similar to earlier U.S. struggles against Nazism and then Stalinism (while ignoring the fact that both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were first-rate military powers, a status al-Qaeda neither has nor can achieve), the administration could be preparing the case for war with Iran. Such war would then plunge America into a protracted conflict spanning Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and perhaps also Pakistan.

The culture of fear is like a genie that has been let out of its bottle. It acquires a life of its own — and can become demoralizing. America today is not the self-confident and determined nation that responded to Pearl Harbor; nor is it the America that heard from its leader, at another moment of crisis, the powerful words “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”; nor is it the calm America that waged the Cold War with quiet persistence despite the knowledge that a real war could be initiated abruptly within minutes and prompt the death of 100 million Americans within just a few hours. We are now divided, uncertain and potentially very susceptible to panic in the event of another terrorist act in the United States itself.

That is the result of five years of almost continuous national brainwashing on the subject of terror, quite unlike the more muted reactions of several other nations (Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, to mention just a few) that also have suffered painful terrorist acts. In his latest justification for his war in Iraq, President Bush even claims absurdly that he has to continue waging it lest al-Qaeda cross the Atlantic to launch a war of terror here in the United States.

Such fear-mongering, reinforced by security entrepreneurs, the mass media and the entertainment industry, generates its own momentum. The terror entrepreneurs, usually described as experts on terrorism, are necessarily engaged in competition to justify their existence. Hence their task is to convince the public that it faces new threats. That puts a premium on the presentation of credible scenarios of ever-more-horrifying acts of violence, sometimes even with blueprints for their implementation.

That America has become insecure and more paranoid is hardly debatable. A recent study reported that in 2003, Congress identified 160 sites as potentially important national targets for would-be terrorists. With lobbyists weighing in, by the end of that year the list had grown to 1,849; by the end of 2004, to 28,360; by 2005, to 77,769. The national database of possible targets now has some 300,000 items in it, including the Sears Tower in Chicago and an Illinois Apple and Pork Festival.

Just last week, here in Washington, on my way to visit a journalistic office, I had to pass through one of the absurd “security checks” that have proliferated in almost all the privately owned office buildings in this capital — and in New York City. A uniformed guard required me to fill out a form, show an I.D. and in this case explain in writing the purpose of my visit. Would a visiting terrorist indicate in writing that the purpose is “to blow up the building”? Would the guard be able to arrest such a self-confessing, would-be suicide bomber? To make matters more absurd, large department stores, with their crowds of shoppers, do not have any comparable procedures. Nor do concert halls or movie theaters. Yet such “security” procedures have become routine, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and further contributing to a siege mentality.

Government at every level has stimulated the paranoia. Consider, for example, the electronic billboards over interstate highways urging motorists to “Report Suspicious Activity” (drivers in turbans?). Some mass media have made their own contribution. The cable channels and some print media have found that horror scenarios attract audiences, while terror “experts” as “consultants” provide authenticity for the apocalyptic visions fed to the American public. Hence the proliferation of programs with bearded “terrorists” as the central villains. Their general effect is to reinforce the sense of the unknown but lurking danger that is said to increasingly threaten the lives of all Americans.

The entertainment industry has also jumped into the act. Hence the TV serials and films in which the evil characters have recognizable Arab features, sometimes highlighted by religious gestures, that exploit public anxiety and stimulate Islamophobia. Arab facial stereotypes, particularly in newspaper cartoons, have at times been rendered in a manner sadly reminiscent of the Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns. Lately, even some college student organizations have become involved in such propagation, apparently oblivious to the menacing connection between the stimulation of racial and religious hatreds and the unleashing of the unprecedented crimes of the Holocaust.

The atmosphere generated by the “war on terror” has encouraged legal and political harassment of Arab Americans (generally loyal Americans) for conduct that has not been unique to them. A case in point is the reported harassment of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for its attempts to emulate, not very successfully, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Some House Republicans recently described CAIR members as “terrorist apologists” who should not be allowed to use a Capitol meeting room for a panel discussion.

Social discrimination, for example toward Muslim air travelers, has also been its unintended byproduct. Not surprisingly, animus toward the United States even among Muslims otherwise not particularly concerned with the Middle East has intensified, while America’s reputation as a leader in fostering constructive interracial and interreligious relations has suffered egregiously.

The record is even more troubling in the general area of civil rights. The culture of fear has bred intolerance, suspicion of foreigners and the adoption of legal procedures that undermine fundamental notions of justice. Innocent until proven guilty has been diluted if not undone, with some — even U.S. citizens — incarcerated for lengthy periods of time without effective and prompt access to due process. There is no known, hard evidence that such excess has prevented significant acts of terrorism, and convictions for would-be terrorists of any kind have been few and far between. Someday Americans will be as ashamed of this record as they now have become of the earlier instances in U.S. history of panic by the many prompting intolerance against the few.

In the meantime, the “war on terror” has gravely damaged the United States internationally. For Muslims, the similarity between the rough treatment of Iraqi civilians by the U.S. military and of the Palestinians by the Israelis has prompted a widespread sense of hostility toward the United States in general. It’s not the “war on terror” that angers Muslims watching the news on television, it’s the victimization of Arab civilians. And the resentment is not limited to Muslims. A recent BBC poll of 28,000 people in 27 countries that sought respondents’ assessments of the role of states in international affairs resulted in Israel, Iran and the United States being rated (in that order) as the states with “the most negative influence on the world.” Alas, for some that is the new axis of evil!

The events of 9/11 could have resulted in a truly global solidarity against extremism and terrorism. A global alliance of moderates, including Muslim ones, engaged in a deliberate campaign both to extirpate the specific terrorist networks and to terminate the political conflicts that spawn terrorism would have been more productive than a demagogically proclaimed and largely solitary U.S. “war on terror” against “Islamo-fascism.” Only a confidently determined and reasonable America can promote genuine international security which then leaves no political space for terrorism.

Where is the U.S. leader ready to say, “Enough of this hysteria, stop this paranoia”? Even in the face of future terrorist attacks, the likelihood of which cannot be denied, let us show some sense. Let us be true to our traditions.