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This newsletter is entitled...

What goes around ~ comes around !


Gray Davis's " scorched Earth " policy of demonizing the opposition so that he becomes the lesser of two evils is coming back to haunt him.

Bustamante is now the lesser of two evils and Davis is the evil that no one wants in office.

Prediction:

Democrats will rally around Bustamante and he will win the recall candidate vote. Schwarzenegger will be exposed as a joke . The recall will win and Davis will ignominiously fade into political oblivion.

DISPATCH FROM IRAQ

The occupation of Iraq is a quagmire and the true extent of it continues to leak out despite the Bush Administration's attempt to put a positive spin on it. Here's an inside look at the chaos via Anita Roddick.

Anita Roddick: Scott Fleming, my good friend and attorney for the Angola Three, is in Baghdad with a crew of journalists. He has been sending dispatches from Baghdad that make it sound like hell on earth. I'll be publishing his emails to me here as they come in.

Sunday, 3 August I'm in Baghdad and it's Sunday night. Today was perhaps the most bizarre, terrifying (although my traveling companions and I were never in any immediate danger), and mind-blowing day of my life. We left lovely Amman at 4 a.m. and were in Baghdad by about 3 p.m. The landscape, physical, climatological, and cultural, changed so much that the night bore no resemblance to the morning. I can't possibly catalog it all, but I can give some impressions.

We crossed the border and headed into Iraq at about 10 a.m. A GMC Suburban, the choice of foreign travelers, at $500 cash for the trip. perhaps 100km into the western desert, and burned out cars appear by the roadside. A scorched Ferrari said to have belonged to Uday Hussein, missiled to oblivion as one of his lieutenants tried to escape. Saddam's majestic 6-lane highway from Jordan to Baghdad, probably better than any U.S. desert interstate, marked by scores of burn marks. A highway overpass with a gaping hole caused by a bomb, which we are told was aimed at a passenger bus. A few hundred yards later, the bus itself, utterly destroyed, the only visual comparison to one suicide-bombed in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

A highway rest stop sells water and chocolate bars. Truck drivers stand in 110-degree heat working on their huge, super-heavy-duty overland trucks, which are late 60s models but look like they were (and may have been) just built brand new at some Iranian factory that hasn't been retooled in 35 years. Among the buildings at the rest stop is a pile of rubble, next to it the twisted frames of a tractor-trailer and a Chevy van. We're told the first death of the war took place here, a Jordanian truck driver who was talking on his satellite phone at the wrong rest stop at the wrong time. One of our driver's friends said he had his Suburban shot up by the U.S., and they paid him and his passenger $8,000 to keep quiet about it.

There is heavy truck traffic on the Baghdad-Amman highway. The trucks headed to Baghdad are loaded with supplies, food, and a good number of used cars. The trucks headed to Amman are almost universally empty, as if Iraq has nothing worth exporting except the oil that barely flows.

Miles and miles of downed high-voltage power lines. Cable tower after cable tower broken in exactly the same place. Too precise for airplanes or copters. Special forces or somebody must have systematically placed explosives on all of them. Is this why the lights are out in Baghdad? I don't know.

We cross the Euphrates into Ramadi and Fallujah, where everyone says the highway is beset by Bedouin bandits. Our local drivers definitely fear this stretch, although the bandits don't have a reputation for violence; they just pull guns and demand money. The white GMCs speed up and drive in a convoy for safety. Along this stretch (and at earlier points when they got nervous) they form into a tight defensive driving formation, a squadron of heavy-duty SUVs doing 150 kmh all together. The driver next to us flashes his .45-caliber pistol and a smile to make us (and himself) feel safer.

And then it's the outskirts of Baghdad. Increasingly frequent U.S. Army convoys of Humvees, fuel trucks, heavy trucks with .50-caliber machine guns, and even some street sweepers, which will seem in retrospect futile when we see the condition of the city. Our driver asks me not to photograph the soldiers, because they are "crazy" and he doesn't want me to get us all shot.

The guardrails in the middle of the divided highway have frequently been flattened by us tanks, done to create places for them to make U-turns without exiting the superhighway. Sometimes the guardrails have been pulled out across a full lane of traffic, very dangerous when everyone is traveling at high speed to avoid the bandits.

We pass a huge, terrifying Saddam prison, buildings all sand-colored and surrounded by a tall wall topped with numerous machine gun nests.

As we enter the city itself, it is total chaos. Nothing could have prepared us for this. No traffic lights working anywhere. Traffic going both ways on all one-way streets. Horse carts, motorcycles, SUVs, tanks, Humvees, and pedestrians. Hundreds and hundreds of men lined up in the sun, using newspaper hats and umbrellas, to apply for jobs in the new Iraqi army, whatever that means.

Baghdad is barely smaller than New York, with few tall buildings, meaning lots of sprawl. It's huge. And everywhere there are piles of rubble and bricks. Buildings that have been bombed, shelled, or burned by looters. Huge buildings blackened and broken in every direction. The fairgrounds demolished, and the telephone exchange. Everywhere. Thousands of people going every way on the streets. And smoke. Some buildings are still burning. Trash is burning all over. Every hotel and lots of people have diesel generators, since the U.S. can't seem to get the electricity on. And lots of cars with dirty exhaust.

We get reports that many more us soldiers are dying than the Pentagon admits. Perhaps 5 a day. One of my traveling companions sees four guys drive past our hotel brandishing a gun. Shortly after, the soldiers show up in their Bradley Fighting Vehicle and do a sweep of the neighborhood. Darryl Gates couldn't have dreamed of this kind of aggressive policing. Everyone says to make sure not to dress anything like a GI, and never to talk to soldiers on the street. I don't know whether I'd less want to be an Iraqi civilian or an American Soldier.

Our sort-of air-conditioned hotel suite is $35 a night. Our balcony looks down on a parking lot filled with identical UN vehicles. The streets are full of desperately poor people. They have that look in their eyes. There is nothing for them to do in their own society. A lot of these people probably have university degrees.

We dine at the al-Hamra across the street, the finest hotel in the city since the U.S. shelled the Palestine. A steak is US$5. The generator, and the lights, cut out once during dinner, but nobody seems to notice. Four Australian special forces-looking guys escort some kind of Aussie officials to a table near us, leaving their rifles on the floor of the dining room as they drink Diet Pepsis and wait for their wards to eat. A civilian-looking white guy stands in the lobby with a folding-stock Kalashnikov casually hanging over his shoulder.

And, finally, the sun. I think I can deal with the 115 (or more) degree heat, but the sun is piercing through the dry air. I'm OK, but 20 minutes of it makes me somewhat sunburned. I've never felt anything like it. It adds so much tension to the air.

George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and Condoleezza Rice and Tony Blair and Dick Cheney are insane. I don't know what they think they are doing here, but if it involves order and sanity they have failed miserably and indefinitely. It's obvious enough from the newspaper accounts but you have to see it for yourself. They have caused a catastrophe here. The events of the past year have moved so quickly we tend to forget about the effect of 12 years of economic sanctions. "The price is worth it?" I don't know what they're going to do, and the masters of war themselves must be terrified.

We're OK for now. We'll probably be here about nine days. Have lots of good contacts for information and guidance. There is a 24-hour Internet cafe across the street. $3 an hour and very slow, but it works. No phones except satellite phones, which everyone in the Middle East calls by the brand name "Thuraya." All the self-important international journalists have them. We don't.

That's it for now. I've been up for 37 hours straight, and I'm going to bed.

Scott Fleming

ONLY LOVE HEALS

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