Thursday, February 19, 2004

Congressman Dennis Kucinich: The only presidential candidate willing to save America from a bloodbath

By Jane Stillwater

We have a situation here, America. "If we take our troops out of Iraq, there will be a bloodbath," say the pundits. Yet if we leave our troops in Iraq, we will be spilling the blood of yet more American GIs, bankrupting our country and stirring up the enmity of billions. There is no way that the hazards of this situation can be exaggerated. We are making enemies left and right over there; answering the pathetic civilian needs of that country with greed, corruption and death by gunfire. The war on Iraq costs us one billion dollars a week. America, continuing that war is a disasterous situation.

Despite the grave dangers to America posed by the occupation of Iraq, only one US presidential candidate has a plan for peaceful removal of our troops from a place where we have no business.

It is personally shocking and repugnant to me and to every other patriotic American that even one more American soldier might die in some far-off land for some stupid little war. Yet only Dennis Kucinich is thinking of saving him (or her).

In the new Mel Gibson movie, Jesus is beaten, tortured and whipped until his very skin hangs in shreds. Yet despite this unendurable brutality, Jesus Christ refuses to forsake his heart-felt creed of non-violence. And kindness. And love.

Despite Christ's inspiring example, people throughout the world are following leaders like George Bush, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Ladin -- leaders who tell them, "Killing is the solution to every problem." That's like telling us that serial killers are our only hope.

America, it's time that we see the bigger picture. Killing people won't get us into Heaven. We can't indiscriminately slaughter millions of women and children -- as America has consistently done in the past 50 years -- and then sit back and expect The Rapture to come knocking at our door. "If you can't bear the cross then you can't wear the crown." This the reason why Jesus Christ will be our hero for all eternity and people like Bush and bin Ladin will merely end up in jail.

What would Jesus -- and Mohammed and Buddha -- do if they were American registered voters? I'm willing to bet the farm that they would vote for Dennis Kucinich.

The majority of delegates to the Democratic convention are yet to be chosen. There's still plenty of time to vote for Congressman Kucinich -- and to put pressure on the powers that be to end America's lose-lose situation in Iraq before we witness even more American bloodbaths.

World Press Photo of the Year 2003: Iraqi man comforts his son at a regroupment center for POWs, Najaf, Iraq, 31 March

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

URGENT ACTION ALERT: Mail this article to your Registrar of Voters (and forward it to all your friends!)

Enclosed please find an article listing facts and deeds that threaten the very fabric of our American republic.

Please print this article and mail copies of it to your county Registrar of Voters, your state's Secretary of State and to your Congressional representative. Tell them that, here in America, our right to honest elections is sacred.

This act will cost each of us 60 cents per letter, $3.00 total -- and it will be the most important $3.00 that we will ever spend.

Now is the time for us little guys -- liberals and conservatives -- to have the courage to take our country back -- while we still have one.
Here is the URL:

California residents: Also let your Registrars and elected officials know that, unless Diebold gives us full access to their secret codes, the recent recall elections cannot be legally certified. Therefore, Arnold Schwartzenegger cannot be our new governor.

Best regards, Jane Stillwater, Berkeley, CA (Diebold country)

"Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World Peace in one generation!"

Here is the article. Read it and weep:

Published on Monday, October 13, 2003 by the lndependent/UK
All the President's Votes?
A Quiet Revolution is Taking Place in US Politics. By the Time It's Over, the Integrity of Elections Will be in the Unchallenged, Unscrutinized Control of a Few Large - and Pro-Republican - Corporations. Andrew Gumbel wonders if democracy in America can survive

by Andrew Gumbel

Something very odd happened in the mid-term elections in Georgia last November. On the eve of the vote, opinion polls showed Roy Barnes, the incumbent Democratic governor, leading by between nine and 11 points. In a somewhat closer, keenly watched Senate race, polls indicated that Max Cleland, the popular Democrat up for re-election, was ahead by two to five points against his Republican challenger, Saxby Chambliss.

Corporate America is very close to running this country. The only thing that is stopping them from taking total control are the pesky voters. That's why there's such a drive to control the vote. What we're seeing is the corporatization of the last shred of democracy.

Roxanne Jekot
computer programmer
Those figures were more or less what political experts would have expected in state with a long tradition of electing Democrats to statewide office. But then the results came in, and all of Georgia appeared to have been turned upside down. Barnes lost the governorship to the Republican, Sonny Perdue, 46 per cent to 51 per cent, a swing of as much as 16 percentage points from the last opinion polls. Cleland lost to Chambliss 46 per cent to 53, a last-minute swing of 9 to 12 points.

Red-faced opinion pollsters suddenly had a lot of explaining to do and launched internal investigations. Political analysts credited the upset - part of a pattern of Republican successes around the country - to a huge campaigning push by President Bush in the final days of the race. They also said that Roy Barnes had lost because of a surge of "angry white men" punishing him for eradicating all but a vestige of the old confederate symbol from the state flag.

But something about these explanations did not make sense, and they have made even less sense over time. When the Georgia secretary of state's office published its demographic breakdown of the election earlier this year, it turned out there was no surge of angry white men; in fact, the only subgroup showing even a modest increase in turnout was black women.

There were also big, puzzling swings in partisan loyalties in different parts of the state. In 58 counties, the vote was broadly in line with the primary election. In 27 counties in Republican-dominated north Georgia, however, Max Cleland unaccountably scored 14 percentage points higher than he had in the primaries. And in 74 counties in the Democrat south, Saxby Chambliss garnered a whopping 22 points more for the Republicans than the party as a whole had won less than three months earlier.

Now, weird things like this do occasionally occur in elections, and the figures, on their own, are not proof of anything except statistical anomalies worthy of further study. But in Georgia there was an extra reason to be suspicious. Last November, the state became the first in the country to conduct an election entirely with touchscreen voting machines, after lavishing $54m (£33m) on a new system that promised to deliver the securest, most up-to-date, most voter-friendly election in the history of the republic. The machines, however, turned out to be anything but reliable. With academic studies showing the Georgia touchscreens to be poorly programmed, full of security holes and prone to tampering, and with thousands of similar machines from different companies being introduced at high speed across the country, computer voting may, in fact, be US democracy's own 21st-century nightmare.

In many Georgia counties last November, the machines froze up, causing long delays as technicians tried to reboot them. In heavily Democratic Fulton County, in downtown Atlanta, 67 memory cards from the voting machines went missing, delaying certification of the results there for 10 days. In neighboring DeKalb County, 10 memory cards were unaccounted for; they were later recovered from terminals that had supposedly broken down and been taken out of service.

It is still unclear exactly how results from these missing cards were tabulated, or if they were counted at all. And we will probably never know, for a highly disturbing reason. The vote count was not conducted by state elections officials, but by the private company that sold Georgia the voting machines in the first place, under a strict trade-secrecy contract that made it not only difficult but actually illegal - on pain of stiff criminal penalties - for the state to touch the equipment or examine the proprietary software to ensure the machines worked properly. There was not even a paper trail to follow up. The machines were fitted with thermal printing devices that could theoretically provide a written record of voters' choices, but these were not activated. Consequently, recounts were impossible. Had Diebold Inc, the manufacturer, been asked to review the votes, all it could have done was program the computers to spit out the same data as before, flawed or not.

Astonishingly, these are the terms under which America's top three computer voting machine manufacturers - Diebold, Sequoia and Election Systems and Software (ES&S) - have sold their products to election officials around the country. Far from questioning the need for rigid trade secrecy and the absence of a paper record, secretaries of state and their technical advisers - anxious to banish memories of the hanging chad fiasco and other associated disasters in the 2000 presidential recount in Florida - have, for the most part, welcomed the touchscreen voting machines as a technological miracle solution.

Georgia was not the only state last November to see big last-minute swings in voting patterns. There were others in Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois and New Hampshire - all in races that had been flagged as key partisan battlegrounds, and all won by the Republican Party. Again, this was widely attributed to the campaigning efforts of President Bush and the demoralization of a Democratic Party too timid to speak out against the looming war in Iraq.

Also See:
Diebold Voting Machine Owner Committed To Give Votes To Bush in 2004
Cleveland Plain Dealer 8/28/2003

Will Bush Backers Manipulate Votes to Deliver GW Another Election?
Democracy Now! 9/4/2003

Strangely, however, the pollsters made no comparable howlers in lower-key races whose outcome was not seriously contested. Another anomaly, perhaps. What, then, is one to make of the fact that the owners of the three major computer voting machines are all prominent Republican Party donors? Or of a recent political fund-raising letter written to Ohio Republicans by Walden O'Dell, Diebold's chief executive, in which he said he was "committed to helping Ohio to deliver its electoral votes to the president next year" - even as his company was bidding for the contract on the state's new voting machinery?

Alarmed and suspicious, a group of Georgia citizens began to look into last November's election to see whether there was any chance the results might have been deliberately or accidentally manipulated. Their research proved unexpectedly, and disturbingly, fruitful.

First, they wanted to know if the software had undergone adequate checking. Under state and federal law, all voting machinery and component parts must be certified before use in an election. So an Atlanta graphic designer called Denis Wright wrote to the secretary of state's office for a copy of the certification letter. Clifford Tatum, assistant director of legal affairs for the election division, wrote back: "We have determined that no records exist in the Secretary of State's office regarding a certification letter from the lab certifying the version of software used on Election Day." Mr Tatum said it was possible the relevant documents were with Gary Powell, an official at the Georgia Technology Authority, so campaigners wrote to him as well. Mr Powell responded he was "not sure what you mean by the words 'please provide written certification documents' ".

"If the machines were not certified, then right there the election was illegal," Mr Wright says. The secretary of state's office has yet to demonstrate anything to the contrary. The investigating citizens then considered the nature of the software itself. Shortly after the election, a Diebold technician called Rob Behler came forward and reported that, when the machines were about to be shipped to Georgia polling stations in the summer of 2002, they performed so erratically that their software had to be amended with a last-minute "patch". Instead of being transmitted via disk - a potentially time-consuming process, especially since its author was in Canada, not Georgia - the patch was posted, along with the entire election software package, on an open-access FTP, or file transfer protocol site, on the internet.

That, according to computer experts, was a violation of the most basic of security precautions, opening all sorts of possibilities for the introduction of rogue or malicious code. At the same time, however, it gave campaigners a golden opportunity to circumvent Diebold's own secrecy demands and see exactly how the system worked. Roxanne Jekot, a computer programmer with 20 years' experience, and an occasional teacher at Lanier Technical College northeast of Atlanta, did a line-by-line review and found "enough to stand your hair on end".

"There were security holes all over it," she says, "from the most basic display of the ballot on the screen all the way through the operating system." Although the program was designed to be run on the Windows 2000 NT operating system, which has numerous safeguards to keep out intruders, Ms Jekot found it worked just fine on the much less secure Windows 98; the 2000 NT security features were, as she put it, "nullified".

Also embedded in the software were the comments of the programmers working on it. One described what he and his colleagues had just done as "a gross hack". Elsewhere was the remark: "This doesn't really work." "Not a confidence builder, would you say?" Ms Jekot says. "They were operating in panic mode, cobbling together something that would work for the moment, knowing that at some point they would have to go back to figure out how to make it work more permanently." She found some of the code downright suspect - for example, an overtly meaningless instruction to divide the number of write-in votes by 1. "From a logical standpoint there is absolutely no reason to do that," she says. "It raises an immediate red flag."

Mostly, though, she was struck by the shoddiness of much of the programming. "I really expected to have some difficulty reviewing the source code because it would be at a higher level than I am accustomed to," she says. "In fact, a lot of this stuff looked like the homework my first-year students might have turned in." Diebold had no specific comment on Ms Jekot's interpretations, offering only a blanket caution about the complexity of election systems "often not well understood by individuals with little real-world experience".

But Ms Jekot was not the only one to examine the Diebold software and find it lacking. In July, a group of researchers from the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore discovered what they called "stunning flaws". These included putting the password in the source code, a basic security no-no; manipulating the voter smart-card function so one person could cast more than one vote; and other loopholes that could theoretically allow voters' ballot choices to be altered without their knowledge, either on the spot or by remote access.

Diebold issued a detailed response, saying that the Johns Hopkins report was riddled with false assumptions, inadequate information and "a multitude of false conclusions". Substantially similar findings, however, were made in a follow-up study on behalf of the state of Maryland, in which a group of computer security experts catalogued 328 software flaws, 26 of them critical, putting the whole system "at high risk of compromise". "If these vulnerabilities are exploited, significant impact could occur on the accuracy, integrity, and availability of election results," their report says.

Ever since the Johns Hopkins study, Diebold has sought to explain away the open FTP file as an old, incomplete version of its election package. The claim cannot be independently verified, because of the trade-secrecy agreement, and not everyone is buying it. "It is documented throughout the code who changed what and when. We have the history of this program from 1996 to 2002," Ms Jekot says. "I have no doubt this is the software used in the elections." Diebold now says it has upgraded its encryption and password features - but only on its Maryland machines.

A key security question concerned compatibility with Microsoft Windows, and Ms Jekot says just three programmers, all of them senior Diebold executives, were involved in this aspect of the system. One of these, Diebold's vice-president of research and development, Talbot Iredale, wrote an e-mail in April 2002 - later obtained by the campaigners - making it clear that he wanted to shield the operating system from Wylie Labs, an independent testing agency involved in the early certification process.

The reason that emerges from the e-mail is that he wanted to make the software compatible with WinCE 3.0, an operating system used for handhelds and PDAs; in other words, a system that could be manipulated from a remote location. "We do not want Wyle [sic] reviewing and certifying the operating systems," the e-mail reads. "Therefore can we keep to a minimum the references to the WinCE 3.0 operating system."

In an earlier intercepted e-mail, this one from Ken Clark in Diebold's research and development department, the company explained upfront to another independent testing lab that the supposedly secure software system could be accessed without a password, and its contents easily changed using the Microsoft Access program Mr Clark says he had considered putting in a password requirement to stop dealers and customers doing "stupid things", but that the easy access had often "got people out of a bind". Astonishingly, the representative from the independent testing lab did not see anything wrong with this and granted certification to the part of the software program she was inspecting - a pattern of lackadaisical oversight that was replicated all the way to the top of the political chain of command in Georgia, and in many other parts of the country.

Diebold has not contested the authenticity of the e-mails, now openly accessible on the internet. However, Diebold did caution that, as the e-mails were taken from a Diebold Election systems website in March 2003 by an illegal hack, the nature of the information stolen could have been revised or manipulated.

There are two reasons why the United States is rushing to overhaul its voting systems. The first is the Florida débâcle in the Bush-Gore election; no state wants to be the center of that kind of attention again. And the second is the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), signed by President Bush last October, which promises an unprecedented $3.9bn (£2.3bn) to the states to replace their old punchcard-and-lever machines. However, enthusiasm for the new technology seems to be motivated as much by a bureaucratic love of spending as by a love of democratic accountability. According to Rebecca Mercuri, a research fellow at Harvard's John F Kennedy School of Government and a specialist in voting systems, the shockingly high error rate of punchcard machines (3-5 per cent in Florida in 2000) has been known to people in the elections business for years. It was only after it became public knowledge in the last presidential election that anybody felt moved to do anything about it.

The problem is, computer touchscreen machines and other so-called DRE (direct recording electronic) systems are significantly less reliable than punchcards, irrespective of their vulnerability to interference. In a series of research papers for the Voting Technology Project, a joint venture of the prestigious Massachusetts and California Institutes of Technology, DREs were found to be among the worst performing systems. No method, the MIT/CalTech study conceded, worked more reliably than hand-counting paper ballots - an option that US electoral officials seem to consider hopelessly antiquated, or at least impractical in elections combining multiple local, state and national races for offices from President down to dogcatcher.

The clear disadvantages and dangers associated with DREs have not deterred state and county authorities from throwing themselves headlong into touchscreen technology. More than 40,000 machines made by Diebold alone are already in use in 37 states, and most are touchscreens. County after county is poised to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more on computer voting before next spring's presidential primaries. "They say this is the direction they have to go in to have fair elections, but the rush to go towards computerization is very dubious," Dr Mercuri says. "One has to wonder why this is going on, because the way it is set up it takes away the checks and balances we have in a democratic society. That's the whole point of paper trails and recounts."

Anyone who has struggled with an interactive display in a museum knows how dodgy touchscreens can be. If they don't freeze, they easily become misaligned, which means they can record the wrong data. In Dallas, during early voting before last November's election, people found that no matter how often they tried to press a Democrat button, the Republican candidate's name would light up. After a court hearing, Diebold agreed to take down 18 machines with apparent misalignment problems. "And those were the ones where you could visually spot a problem," Dr Mercuri says. "What about what you don't see? Just because your vote shows up on the screen for the Democrats, how do you know it is registering inside the machine for the Democrats?"

Other problems have shown up periodically: machines that register zero votes, or machines that indicate voters coming to the polling station but not voting, even when a single race with just two candidates was on the ballot. Dr Mercuri was part of a lawsuit in Palm Beach County in which she and other plaintiffs tried to have a suspect Sequoia machine examined, only to run up against the brick wall of the trade-secret agreement. "It makes it really hard to show their product has been tampered with," she says, "if it's a felony to inspect it."

As for the possibilities of foul play, Dr Mercuri says they are virtually limitless. "There are literally hundreds of ways to do this," she says. "There are hundreds of ways to embed a rogue series of commands into the code and nobody would ever know because the nature of programming is so complex. The numbers would all tally perfectly." Tampering with an election could be something as simple as a "denial-of-service" attack, in which the machines simply stop working for an extended period, deterring voters faced with the prospect of long lines. Or it could be done with invasive computer codes known in the trade by such nicknames as "Trojan horses" or "Easter eggs". Detecting one of these, Dr Mercuri says, would be almost impossible unless the investigator knew in advance it was there and how to trigger it. Computer researcher Theresa Hommel, who is alarmed by touchscreen systems, has constructed a simulated voting machine in which the same candidate always wins, no matter what data you put in. She calls her model the Fraud-o-matic, and it is available online at

It is not just touchscreens which are at risk from error or malicious intrusion. Any computer system used to tabulate votes is vulnerable. An optical scan of ballots in Scurry County, Texas, last November erroneously declared a landslide victory for the Republican candidate for county commissioner; a subsequent hand recount showed that the Democrat had in fact won. In Comal County, Texas, a computerized optical scan found that three different candidates had won their races with exactly 18,181 votes. There was no recount or investigation, even though the coincidence, with those recurring 1s and 8s, looked highly suspicious. In heavily Democrat Broward County, Florida - which had switched to touchscreens in the wake of the hanging chad furore - more than 100,000 votes were found to have gone "missing" on election day. The votes were reinstated, but the glitch was not adequately explained. One local official blamed it on a "minor software thing".

Most suspect of all was the governor's race in Alabama, where the incumbent Democrat, Don Siegelman, was initially declared the winner. Sometime after midnight, when polling station observers and most staff had gone home, the probate judge responsible for elections in rural Baldwin County suddenly "discovered" that Mr Siegelman had been awarded 7,000 votes too many. In a tight election, the change was enough to hand victory to his Republican challenger, Bob Riley. County officials talked vaguely of a computer tabulation error, or a lightning strike messing up the machines, but the real reason was never ascertained because the state's Republican attorney general refused to authorize a recount or any independent ballot inspection.

According to an analysis by James Gundlach, a sociology professor at Auburn University in Alabama, the result in Baldwin County was full of wild deviations from the statistical norms established both by this and preceding elections. And he adds: "There is simply no way that electronic vote counting can produce two sets of results without someone using computer programs in ways that were not intended. In other words, the fact that two sets of results were reported is sufficient evidence in and of itself that the vote tabulation process was compromised." Although talk of voting fraud quickly subsided, Alabama has now amended its election laws to make recounts mandatory in close races.

The possibility of flaws in the electoral process is not something that gets discussed much in the United States. The attitude seems to be: we are the greatest democracy in the world, so the system must be fair. That has certainly been the prevailing view in Georgia, where even leading Democrats - their prestige on the line for introducing touchscreen voting in the first place - have fought tooth-and-nail to defend the integrity of the system. In a phone interview, the head of the Georgia Technology Authority who brought Diebold machines to the state, Larry Singer, blamed the growing chorus of criticism on "fear of technology", despite the fact that many prominent critics are themselves computer scientists. He says: "Are these machines flawless? No. Would you have more confidence if they were completely flawless? Yes. Is there such a thing as a flawless system? No." Mr Singer, who left the GTA straight after the election and took a 50 per cent pay cut to work for Sun Microsystems, insists that voters are more likely to have their credit card information stolen by a busboy in a restaurant than to have their vote compromised by touchscreen technology.

Voting machines are sold in the United States in much the same way as other government contracts: through intensive lobbying, wining and dining. At a recent national conference of clerks, election officials and treasurers in Denver, attendees were treated to black-tie dinners and other perks, including free expensive briefcases stamped with Sequoia's company logo alongside the association's own symbol. Nobody in power seems to find this worrying, any more than they worried when Sequoia's southern regional sales manager, Phil Foster, was indicted in Louisiana a couple of years ago for "conspiracy to commit money laundering and malfeasance". The charges were dropped in exchange for his testimony against Louisiana's state commissioner of elections. Similarly, last year, the Arkansas secretary of state, Bill McCuen, pleaded guilty to taking bribes and kickbacks involving a precursor company to ES&S; the voting machine company executive who testified against him in exchange for immunity is now an ES&S vice-president.

If much of the worry about vote-tampering is directed at the Republicans, it is largely because the big three touchscreen companies are all big Republican donors, pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into party coffers in the past few years. The ownership issue is, of course, compounded by the lack of transparency. Or, as Dr Mercuri puts it: "If the machines were independently verifiable, who would give a crap who owns them?" As it is, fears that US democracy is being hijacked by corporate interests are being fueled by links between the big three and broader business interests, as well as extremist organizations. Two of the early backers of American Information Systems, a company later merged into ES&S, are also prominent supporters of the Chalcedon Foundation, an organization that espouses theocratic governance according to a literal reading of the Bible and advocates capital punishment for blasphemy and homosexuality.

The chief executive of American Information Systems in the early Nineties was Chuck Hagel, who went on to run for elective office and became the first Republican in 24 years to be elected to the Senate from Nebraska, cheered on by the Omaha World-Herald newspaper which also happens to be a big investor in ES&S. In yet another clamorous conflict of interest, 80 per cent of Mr Hagel's winning votes - both in 1996 and again in 2002 - were counted, under the usual terms of confidentiality, by his own company.

In theory, the federal government should be monitoring the transition to computer technology and rooting out abuses. Under the Help America Vote Act, the Bush administration is supposed to establish a sizeable oversight committee, headed by two Democrats and two Republicans, as well as a technical panel to determine standards for new voting machinery. The four commission heads were supposed to have been in place by last February, but so far just one has been appointed. The technical panel also remains unconstituted, even though the new machines it is supposed to vet are already being sold in large quantities - a state of affairs Dr Mercuri denounces as "an abomination".

One of the conditions states have to fulfil to receive federal funding for the new voting machines, meanwhile, is a consolidation of voter rolls at state rather than county level. This provision sends a chill down the spine of anyone who has studied how Florida consolidated its own voter rolls just before the 2000 election, purging the names of tens of thousands of eligible voters, most of them African Americans and most of them Democrats, through misuse of an erroneous list of convicted felons commissioned by Katherine Harris, the secretary of state doubling as George Bush's Florida campaign manager. Despite a volley of lawsuits, the incorrect list was still in operation in last November's mid-terms, raising all sorts of questions about what other states might now do with their own voter rolls. It is not that the Act's consolidation provision is in itself evidence of a conspiracy to throw elections, but it does leave open that possibility.

Meanwhile, the administration has been pushing new voting technology of its own to help overseas citizens and military personnel, both natural Republican Party constituencies, to vote more easily over the internet. Internet voting is notoriously insecure and open to abuse by just about anyone with rudimentary hacking skills; just last January, an experiment in internet voting in Toronto was scuppered by a Slammer worm attack. Undeterred, the administration has gone ahead with its so-called SERVE project for overseas voting, via a private consortium made up of major defense contractors and a Saudi investment group. The contract for overseeing internet voting in the 2004 presidential election was recently awarded to Accenture, formerly part of the Arthur Andersen group (whose accountancy branch, a major campaign contributor to President Bush, imploded as a result of the Enron bankruptcy scandal).

Not everyone in the United States has fallen under the spell of the big computer voting companies, and there are signs of growing wariness. Oregon decided even before HAVA to conduct all its voting by mail. Wisconsin has decided it wants nothing to do with touchscreen machines without a verifiable paper trail, and New York is considering a similar injunction, at least for its state assembly races. In California, a Stanford computer science professor called David Dill is screaming from the rooftops on the need for a paper trail in his state, so far without result. And a New Jersey Congressman called Rush Holt has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act, asking for much the same thing. Not everyone is heeding the warnings, though. In Ohio, publication of the letter from Diebold's chief executive promising to deliver the state to President Bush in 2004 has not deterred the secretary of state - a Republican - from putting Diebold on a list of preferred voting-machine vendors. Similarly, in Maryland, officials have not taken the recent state-sponsored study identifying hundreds of flaws in the Diebold software as any reason to change their plans to use Diebold machines in March's presidential primary.

The question is whether the country will come to its senses before elections start getting distorted or tampered with on such a scale that the system becomes unmanageable. The sheer volume of money offered under HAVA is unlikely to be forthcoming again in a hurry, so if things aren't done right now it is doubtful the system can be fixed again for a long time. "This is frightening, really frightening," says Dr Mercuri, and a growing number of reasonable people are starting to agree with her. One such is John Zogby, arguably the most reliable pollster in the United States, who has freely admitted he "blew" last November's elections and does not exclude the possibility that foul play was one of the factors knocking his calculations off course. "We're plowing into a brave new world here," he says, "where there are so many variables aside from out-and-out corruption that can change elections, especially in situations where the races are close. We have machines that break down, or are tampered with, or are simply misunderstood. It's a cause for great concern."

Roxanne Jekot, who has put much of her professional and personal life on hold to work on the issue full time, puts it even more strongly. "Corporate America is very close to running this country. The only thing that is stopping them from taking total control are the pesky voters. That's why there's such a drive to control the vote. What we're seeing is the corporatization of the last shred of democracy.

"I feel that unless we stop it here and stop it now," she says, "my kids won't grow up to have a right to vote at all."

© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

For 400 billion dollars, why don't we just BUY Iraq? I know a great real estate agent.

This "war" is folly, folly and double-folly. It is morally wrong, it is being run inefficiently, it is needlessly endangering the lives of US soldiers and it is bankrupting America.

Why are we fighting it? Stupidity, propaganda, cowardice and EGO.

What are the alternatives? Financial stability. Education, health care, safety. Justice, democracy, wisdom and love. Ideas that only truly brave leaders can sponsor and embrace.

Ditch this dirty little "war" now.

Best regards, Jane Stillwater, Berkeley, CA

"Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World Peace in one generation!"


From Dennis Kucinich, speaking as a presidential candidate on March 29: "Oh, say does that Star-Spangled Baner still wave o'r the land of the Free and the home of the Brave" He actually sung it! He's a tenor. It was so cool! Dubya never sings nothing. And never gives us hope either.

From Seymour Hersh at the New Yorker:

The battle between Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon.

by SEYMOUR M. HERSH, The New Yorker Magazine,

Issue of 2003-04-07
Posted 2003-03-31

As the ground campaign against Saddam Hussein faltered last week, with attenuated supply lines and a lack of immediate reinforcements, there was anger in the Pentagon. Several senior war planners complained to me in interviews that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his inner circle of civilian advisers, who had been chiefly responsible for persuading President Bush to lead the country into war, had insisted on micromanaging the war's operational details. Rumsfeld's team took over crucial aspects of the day-to-day logistical planning--traditionally, an area in which the uniformed military excels--and Rumsfeld repeatedly overruled the senior Pentagon planners on the Joint Staff, the operating arm of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "He thought he knew better," one senior planner said. "He was the decision-maker at every turn."

From David "Friar Tuck" Southcomb:

Just heard an interesting interview with a Middle East correspondent from NEWSWEEK Magazine, "on the heels" of an interview with an Arab American journalist on CNN, and just wanted to share some idle thoughts. Last night I heard a marvelous interview with Col. Hackworth on "Larry King Live" and that was also insightful, too!!!

The Arab American journalist noted that last summer a U. S. Marine Lieutenant General ran a wargame on this war, where he played the Iraqis. The general did a whole host of things from terrorist bombings to using civilians as decoys and scouts for the Iraqi forces, to having guerilla attacks on stretched supply lines and the like. In the end, the general resigned from playing, because the people administering the games said that the kinds of things he was doing were simply things that the Iraqi people would not do, because they had been sooooh persecuted by the Saddam Hussein Reign, that they would only greet us as "liberators."

Colonel Hackworth said that we are having problems in the prosecution of the war simply because we are not fighting the war, realistically! He said that to the Iraqis, it is their country, and despite the heinous nature of Hussein, they are not going to "hand over" their nation to the US!!! He said that the paramilitary group that Rumsfield tries to demean and diminish are no different than the Viet Cong in Vietnam and he has little doubt that they will "let up" on their tactics.

The correspondent from NEWSWEEK said that the US is looking at a dangerous occupation of Iraq and it will be more like Chetyna and Northern Ireland than anything else. He affirmed the multidimensional ways that American credibility in the Arab World has reached a new low.

After "processing" these three pieces of information, I come away with an interesting perspective. I found myself talking out loud in an almost fatherly way to our President Select and said, "George, My Friend, you have gotten this country in more 'doo-doo' than I ever imagined you were capable of doing! Your 'hellbent' determination to eliminate Saddam Hussein, George, is just getting our nation mired in a war that I honestly believe is going to become Vietnam II for our nation! I never dreamed that you were that politically ignorant, even if I do believe you are the stupidest man to become President in a very long time!"

Beyond all of that, folks, I am just speechless--I never thought this war would be as "out of hand/control" as it is, and there is every indication that BAD is only going to go to WORSE in the 'fullness of time'!!!

David Southcomb
"Friar Tuck"

God Bless America and God Bless Our Troops!!!

"When you give your gifts to others, you are giving to yourself. You may think you are giving to others, but you are really giving yourself a chance to be your best - to live your values - to express your talents - to share your love. You're giving yourself a chance to experience yourself making a meaningful difference and to feel fully alive in the process."

---Laurence Boldt

An alternative "war" analysis:
War in Iraq - a week of war, March 30, 2003,

The IRAQWAR.RU analytical center was created recently by a group of
journalists and military experts from Russia to provide accurate and
up-to-date news and analysis of the war against Iraq. The following is
the English translation of the IRAQWAR.RU report based on the Russian
military intelligence reports.

March 28, 2003, 1448hrs MSK (GMT +3), Moscow - According to the latest
intercepted radio communications, the command of the coalition group of
forces near Karabela requested at least 12 more hours to get ready to
storm the town. This delay is due to the much heavier losses sustained
by the coalition troops during the sand storms then was originally
believed. Just the US 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division sustained more
than 200 disabled combat vehicles of various types. The 101st Airborne
Division reported some 70 helicopters as being disabled. Additionally,
the recently delivered reinforcements require rest and time to prepare
for combat.

At the same time the US forces have resumed attacks near An-Nasiriya and
An-Najaf since 0630hrs and are continuously increasing the intensity of
these attacks. During the night and early morning of March 28 the Iraqi
positions in these areas were subjected to eight aerial assaults by
bombers and ground attack aircraft. However, so far [the coalition] was
unable to penetrate the Iraqi defenses.

Also during the early morning the British units begun advancing along
the Fao peninsula. Latest radio intercepts from this area show that
under a continuous artillery and aerial bombardment the Iraqis have
begun to gradually withdraw their forces toward Basra.

First firefights between troops of the US 82nd Airborne Division and the
Iraqi forces occurred in northern Iraq in the area of Mosula. At the
same time the arrival of up to 1,500 Kurdish troops has been observed in
this area. So far it is not clear to which of the many Kurdish political
movements these troops belong. Leaders of the largest Kurdish workers
party categorically denied participation of their troops. They believe
that these may be units of one of the local tribes not controlled by the
central authorities of the Kurdish autonomy and "ready to fight with
anyone" for money.

According to verified information, during the past 48 hours of the Iraqi
counterattacks the coalition forces sustained the following losses: up
to 30 killed, over 110 wounded and 20 missing in action; up to 30 combat
vehicles lost or disabled, including at least 8 tanks and 2
self-propelled artillery systems, 2 helicopters and 2 unmanned aerial
vehicles were lost in combat. Iraqi losses are around 300 killed, up to
800 wounded, 200 captured and up to 100 combat vehicles 25 of which were
tanks. Most of the [ Iraqi ] losses were sustained due to the artillery
fire and aerial bombardment that resumed by the evening of March 27.

First conclusions can be drawn from the war

The first week of the war surprised a number of military analysts and
experts. The war in Iraq uncovered a range of problems previously left
without a serious discussion and disproved several resilient myths.

The first myth is about the precision-guided weapons as the determining
factor in modern warfare, weapons that allow to achieve strategic
superiority without direct contact with the enemy. On the one hand we
have the fact that during the past 13 years the wars were won by the
United States with minimum losses and, in essence, primarily through the
use of aviation. At the same time, however, the US military command was
stubborn in ignoring that the decisive factor in all these wars was not
the military defeat of the resisting armies but political isolation
coupled with strong diplomatic pressure on the enemy's political
leadership. It was the creation of international coalitions against Iraq
in 1991, against Yugoslavia in 1999 and against Afghanistan in 2001 that
ensured the military success.

The American command preferred not to notice the obvious military
failures during expeditions to Granada, Libya and Somalia, discounting
them as "local operations" not deserving much attention.

Today we can see that in itself massed use of strategic and tactical
precision-guided weapons did not provide the US with a strategic
advantage. Despite the mass use of the most sophisticated weapons the
Americans have so far failed to disrupt Iraqi command and control
infrastructure, communication networks, top Iraqi military and political
leadership, Iraqi air defenses. At the same time the US precision-guided
weapons arsenal has been reduced by about 25%.

The only significant advantage of the precision-guided weapons is the
capability to avoid massive casualties among the civilians in densely
populated areas.

What we have is an obvious discrepancy between the ability to locate and
attack a target with precision-guided weapons and the power of this
weapon, which is not sufficient to reliably destroy a protected target.

On the other hand, precision-guided munitions demonstrated their
superiority over conventional munitions on the battlefield. The ability
to attack targets at long ranges with the first shot is the deciding
factor in the American superiority in land battles.

The second myth disproved by this war is the myth propagated by the
proponents of the "hi-tech" war, who believe in the superiority of the
most modern weapons and inability of older-generation weapons to
counteract the latest systems. Today the technological gap between the
Iraqi weapons and those of the coalition has reached 25-30 years, which
corresponds to two "generations" in weapons design. The primary Iraqi
weapons correspond to the level of the early 1970s. Since that time the
Americans, on the other hand, have launched at least two major
rearmament efforts: the "75-83 program" and the "90-97 program".
Moreover, currently the US is in the middle of another major
modernization and rearmament program that will continue for the next
five years. Despite of this obvious gap, Iraqi resistance has already
been publicly qualified by the US as "fierce and resilient". Analysts
believe that the correlation of losses is entirely acceptable to the
Iraqis and they [ the analysts ] do not see any strategic coalition
advantage in this war. Once again this proves that success in modern
warfare is achieved not so much through technological superiority but
primarily through training, competent command and resilience of the
troops. Under such conditions even relatively old weapons can inflict
heavy losses on a technologically-superior enemy.

Two enormous mistakes made by the US command during the planning stages
of this war resulted in the obvious strategic failure. The US has
underestimated the enemy. Despite the unique ability to conduct
reconnaissance against the Iraqi military infrastructure through a wide
network of agents implanted with the international teams of weapons
inspectors, despite unlimited air dominance the US military command has
failed to adequately evaluate combat readiness of the Iraqi army and its
technical capabilities; the US has failed to correctly assess the social
and political situation in Iraq and in the world in general. These
failures led to entirely inadequate military and political decisions:

The coalition force was clearly insufficient for a such a large-scale
operation. The number of deployed troops was at least 40% short of the
required levels. This is the reason why today, after nine days of war,
the US is forced to resort to emergency redeployment of more than
100,000 troops from the US territory and from Europe. This, in essence,
is the same number of troops already fighting in Iraq.

The buildup and distribution of the coalition forces have been conducted
with gross neglect of all basic rules of combat. All troops were massed
in one small area, which led to five days of non-stop fighting to widen
this area. The initial attack begun without any significant aerial or
artillery preparation and almost immediately this resulted in reduced
rate of advance and heated positional battles.

Today we can see that the US advance is characterized by disorganized
and "impulsive" actions. The troops are simply trying to find weak spots
in the Iraqi defenses and break through them until they hit the next
ambush or the next line of defense.

Not a single goal set before the coalition forces was met on time.

During the nine days of the war the coalition has failed:

- to divide Iraq in half along the An-Nasiriya - Al-Ammara line,
- to surround and to destroy the Iraqi group of forces at Basra,
- to create an attack group between the Tigris and the Euphrates with a
front toward Baghdad,
- to disrupt Iraq's military and political control, to disorganize
Iraq's forces and to destroy the main Iraqi attack forces.

A whole range of problems that require their own solutions was uncovered
directly on the battlefield. Thus, combat in Iraq raised serious
concerns about the problem of coordination between units from different
services. Limited decision-making time and the ability to detect and to
engage an enemy at a great distance make "friendly fire" one of the most
serious problems of modern warfare. For now the coalition has no
adequate solution to this problem. At one location or another every day
of this war the coalition troops were attacking friendly forces.

The second problem of the coalition is its inability to hold on to the
captured territory. For the first time since the war in Vietnam the
Americans have to deal with a partisan movement and with attacks against
their [the US] lines of communication. Currently the coalition is
rushing to form some sort of territorial defense units for guarding its
supply lines and for maintaining order in the occupied territories.

A range of technical problems with equipment has been revealed during
the combat operations. Most operators of the M1A2 Abrams main battle
tank agree that the tank was inadequate for performing the set combat
tasks. The primary problem is the extremely low reliability of the
tank's engine and its transmission in desert conditions. Heat from the
sun, hot sand and the constantly present hot dust in the air nearly
nullified the advantages offered by the turret-mounted thermal sights.
Visibility range of these sights did not exceed 300 meters during
movement in convoy and reached up to 700-800 meters during stops. Only
during cold nights did the visibility range reach 1000-1,500 meters.
Additionally, a large number of thermal sights and other electronics
simply broke down. The tiny crystalline sand particles caused electrical
power surges and disabled electronic equipment.

This was the reason for the decision by the coalition command to stop
movement of troops at night when a contact with the enemy was deemed likely.

The main strong side of the coalition forces was the wide availability
of modern reconnaissance and communication systems that allowed to
detect the enemy at long ranges and to quickly suppress the enemy with
well-coordinated actions of different types of available forces.

In general the US soldiers showed sufficiently high combat resilience.
Even in the extremely difficult weather conditions the troops maintained
control structure and adequately interpreted the situation. Combat
spirit remained high. The majority of troops remain confident in their
abilities, while maintaining belief in the superiority of their weapons
and maintaining reasonable confidence in the way the war is being fought.

It should be noted, however, that the way the war is being fought did
create a certain sense of disappointment in most of the troops. Many are
feeling that they've been lied to and are openly talking about the
stupidity of the high command and its gross miscalculations. "Those
star-covered Pentagon idiots promised us a victory march and flowers on
the armor. What we got instead were those damned fanatics fighting for
every dune and the sand squeaking in your ass!" said one of the wounded
recuperating at a hospital in Rammstein. [ Reverse translation from
Russian ]

Nevertheless, despite the sand storms the terrain favors the coalition
actions by allowing it to employ their entire arsenal of weapons at the
greatest possible range, which makes it difficult for the Iraqis to
conduct combat operations outside of populated areas.

Overestimating the abilities of its airborne forces was a weak side of
the coalition. Plans for a wide-scale use of helicopters as an
independent force did not materialize. All attempts by the US command to
organize aerial and ground operations through exclusive use of airborne
forces have failed. Because of these failures by the end of the fourth
day of the war all airborne units were distributed across the coalition
units and used by the attacking forces for reconnaissance, fire support,
and for containing the enemy. The main burden of combat was carried by
the "heavy" mechanized infantry and tank units.

Another serious drawback in the coalition planning was the exceptionally
weak protection in the rear of the advancing forces. This resulted in
constant interruptions in fuel supply. Tank units sometimes spent up to
6 hours standing still with empty fuel tanks, in essence, being targets
for the Iraqis. Throughout the war delivery of food, ammunition and fuel
remains a headache for the US commanders.

Among the US soldiers there has been a wide-scale discontent with the
quality of the new combat rations. Servicemen are openly calling these
rations "shitty." Many soldier just take the biscuits and the sweets and
discard the rest of the ration. Commanders of the combat units are
demanding from the coalition command to immediately provide the troops
with hot food and to review the entire contents of the combat ration.

Among the strong sides of the Iraqi troops are their excellent knowledge
of the terrain, high quality of defensive engineering work, their
ability to conceal their main attack forces and their resilience and
determination in defense. The Iraqis have shown good organization in
their command and communication structures as well as decisive and and
well-planned strategy.

Among the drawbacks of the Iraqi forces is the bureaucratic
inflexibility of their command, when all decisions are being made only
at the highest levels. Their top commanders also tend to stick to
standard "template" maneuvers and there is insufficient coordination
among the different types of forces.

At the same time commanders of the [Iraqi] special operations forces are
making good use of the available troops and weapons to conduct
operations behind the front lines of the enemy. They use concealment,
show cunning and imagination.

The first strategic lessons of the war

[ Lessons of the war in Iraq are discussed here with a focus on a
possible similar war between Russia and the US ]

The main of such lessons is the ever-increasing significance of troop
concealment as one of the primary methods of combat. Concealment and
strict adherence to the requirements for secrecy and security become
strategic goals of the defending forces in the view of the US reliance
and that of its allies on precision-guided weapons, electronic and
optical reconnaissance as well as due to their use of tactical weapons
at the maximum possible range afforded by these reconnaissance methods.
Importance of concealment is being seen in Iraq and was clearly
demonstrated in Yugoslavia, where the Yugoslav Army preserved nearly 98%
of its assets despite the three months of bombing. Within our
[Russian/European] battle theater concealment methods will offer us [the
Russian army] an enormous advantage over the US.

The second lesson of this war is the strategic role of the air defenses
in modern warfare as the most important service of the armed forces.
Only the complete air dominance of the coalition allows it to continue
its advance toward Baghdad and to achieve the critical advantage in any
engagement. Even the short interruption in air support caused by the
sand storms put the US and British troops in a very difficult situation.

Elimination of the air defenses as a separate service branch of the
[Russian] Armed Forces and its gradual dissipation in the Air Force can
be called nothing else but a "crime". [This statement refers to the
recent unification of the Russian Air Force (VVS) and the Air Defense
Force (PVO) and the secondary role of the air defense force within this
new structure.]

The third lesson of the war is the growing importance of combat
reconnaissance and increased availability of anti-tank weapons capable
of engaging the enemy at maximum range. There is a requirement on the
battlefield for a new weapon system for small units that would allow for
detection of the enemy at maximum distance during day or night; for
effective engagement of modern tanks at a range of 800-1000 meters; for
engagement of enemy infantry at a range of 300-500 meters even with the
modern personal protection equipment possessed by the infantry.

(source:, 03-28-03, translated by Venik)

Regarding Einstein, cowardice and fear:

By Bill Douglas
Tuesday, March 11, 2003, Yellow

The most important question one can ask oneself is: "Is the universe a
friendly place?" Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein recognized that from the answer to the question "Is the
universe a friendly place?" one could extrapolate the direction of
every subsequent life decision. One's entire reality would evolve from the
answer to that one all-important question.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and others in the present US government
administration pulled strings to avoid military service in Vietnam.
Why? Apparently not because they didn't oppose the red menace in Vietnam;
after all, they supported others fighting that war. Therefore, the
unavoidable answer to that question is cowardice. A coward sees the
world as a very threatening place.

Herein lies the danger to all the people of the world. When coward are
in charge, they will direct the institution they lead to use all of its
resources to "protect themselves from harm." This perceived harm could
be economic, political, or military. And they perceive harm coming from
every corner, from under every bed, and from anyone and everyone who
challenges their fearful view of the world. In a coward's world, "you
are either with us, or against us."

The only way the coward can feel truly and ultimately feel safe is to
destroy pre-emptively all possible challenges to their perceived
safety. They don't savour competition and challenge, but rather see it as a
direct threat. They have no vision of a win-win scenario because
everyone is a potential enemy of their way of life. Therefore, all
programs of social uplift must be dismantled because levelling an
unfair playing field in the economic realm could pose a threat to their
inherited place of economic ascendance.

From me via Time Magazine:

Doing the math: Will USA + Iraq = USSR + Afghanistan?

The slaughter of American GIs and other impeachable offenses: George Bush's "Shock and Awe" campaign is succeeding. He has definitely left ME in shock and awe. Instead of writing witty, tightly-argued pleas against an unprovoked war, now all I can manage is incoherent babble.

Mr. Bush has progressed from blowing up frogs to blowing up Muslims to blowing up American GIs. Who can make sense of this nightmare? Certainly not me.

Our money says, "In God we trust." How can we?

On KGO Talk Radio, the HOST of the show actually said, "Bleeding heart liberal Sheeple are totally discounted from this discussion." The gist of his argument was that Iraqis eat the beating hearts out of live dogs; that REAL Americans need to blow every person in that accursed country up ASAP; and that anyone who disagreed with him was weak and UNPATRIOTIC.

This obscenity was proudly broadcast on the publicly-owned airwaves of mainstream radio.

Why are advertisers actually paying money to broadcast such hate? Why would KGO radio would even consider putting it on the air? And, more important, why do such people hate so deeply? People that they have never even met? Including me? Is THIS the real America? With our government setting the example? Whatever happened to red Jello, potato salad and Kool Whip being the American example? Now it's DU, torture, maiming civilians and GI body bags that get us off. America deserves better.

In God we trust? This talk-show guy obviously would have considered Jesus a bleating wimp, clearly a Sheeple -- a loser who DESERVED the Old Rugged Cross because he was WEAK. And soft.

I talked to a Middle Eastern friend of mine yesterday. "Do you have any relatives in the Middle East?" I asked him. "Do you worry about them?"

"I've got brothers, sisters and a father over there," he answered. "But I don't worry about them. I trust in God. And when your time has come, your time has come." I wish that I still believed in God. But after George Bush et al. has finished with Him, what's left to believe in?

Americans seem to be so afraid -- so afraid of losing their...stuff... that they are willing to sell out their democracy, their ideals and even their God. Our fear causes us to attempt to kill everything that moves rather than to take a deep breath and remember that all humans have been offered a contract by God:

"If you are kind and good and wise and obey the ten commandments," says God, "I will watch out over you, protect you while you live and take you up to Heaven when you die." He promises us that good, kind, loving, idealistic people will always live under an umbrella of Grace. And that even if we die a violent death while living our values, then our immortal souls will wear the crown and we will have won the game of life -- the object of which is to keep the bastards of the world from having us become just like them.

Bush et al. are slaughtering frogs, foreigners, GIs and Jello salad. But what really makes me mad is that they are also slaughtering my faith in God. If that's not an impeachable offense, what is?

America deserves better.

Sincerely, Jane Stillwater, Brkeley, CA

"Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World Peace in one generation!"


And God Bless and Light A candle
for our Military who are trying to protect our Country
for our freedom -- even though
they are doing it in the wrong place.
From t r u t h o u t | 03.30Air Raids Pound Baghdad, 50+ Civilians DeadGOOutspoken Army General Upsets White HouseGOA 'Turkey Shoot,' but With Marines as TargetsGORobert Fisk | Raw, Devastating Realities About BasraGONews From Iraq Causes Americans to Think AgainGO
Reprinted from The American Reporter: Randolph T. Holhut: 'Gulf War II: U.S. and Britain defy international law' Posted on Saturday, March 29 @ 09:28:17 EST By Randolph T. Holhut, American Reporter

DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Picture President Bush and Saddam Hussein sharing a cell in The Hague after they have been tried and convicted for crimes against humanity.

Sound improbable?

Maybe the bunking up in the cell part is improbable, but the words "war crimes" and "President Bush" are starting to be uttered in the same sentence with total seriousness in the wake of Persian Gulf War II....

Put these things together, and it adds up to an embarrassing situation for the United States and Britain. The two nations that helped to forge the principles of international law in the years after World War II now stand in violation of those principles.

Molly Ivins: 'Government secrecy and other little steps toward fascism'
Posted on Saturday, March 29 @ 09:31:55 EST By Molly Ivins, Reprinted from The Sacramento Bee:
AUSTIN, Texas -- See if this doesn't make you wince. The Washington Post reported last Saturday on how the Bush administration's attempts to bully Turkey had backfired....Courtesy of John Marshall's website,, I found this paragraph: "But one senior U.S. official acknowledged that U.S. pressure in recent months has backfired, saying that at one point Pentagon officials insinuated to Turkish politicians that they could get the Turkish military to back the request for U.S. troop deployments in Turkey. 'It was stupid stuff. These are proud people,' he said. 'Speaking loudly and carrying a big stick wins you tactical victories from time to time, but not a strategic victory."'

Marshall explains, "The backdrop here is that the military pushed out an Islamist government only a few years back. Going over the civilians' heads to the Turkish General Staff would inevitably raise the specter of a repeat of those events."

Think about it. We're supposedly fighting a war to bring democracy to Iraq, and we threaten one of our strongest democratic allies with a potential military coup? Is this nuts, or what?

Letter from Baghdad:
009641 7192303 or 7184290 room 506. Baghdad 3hours
ahead of GMT, March 27th: Nowhere is Safe

This morning the sky had cleared: a mixed blessing. It
was good to be able to see through the daylight again,
although the view of smoke plumes across the city
wasn't the most soul-fulfilling sight. At the same
time it seemed likely to mark the end of our period of
grace, such as it was, when the weather was holding up
the onslaught.

In Al Shaab market, Mohammed Al Zubaidi told us he had
a shop where he made and sold cushions for car seats.
It was the second one from the left as you look at the
remains of the building which the bomb hit. It's burnt
out but you can see the small compartment which was
his. His assistant, Faris El Bawi, was crushed in the
blast and his body incinerated in the fire that
followed, along with his eleven year old son Saif who
was helping him, because his school was closed for the

Husham Hussein said he was about 200 metres away,
indicating a set of traffic lights, when it happened.
He saw the missile hit the front of the building where
Mohammed's shop used to be. It wasn't a huge missile,
he said, which fits with the relatively small size of
the crater. He said a lot of people were injured in
the flats above the shops. The shops were all open and
the market was busy. He thought 25 people were killed.
Someone else said 45-50 people had gone to hospital.
No one could think of a military target nearby.

From Concerned Women of America at alerts@ "Pre-order Armageddon today!"

Forwarded to me by a friend:

The Iraqi people and the U.S. GI's who have been killed and wounded and are suffering, are the casualties of George W. Bush's unprovoked war of aggression. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families of all those who have been killed and wounded as a consequence of this illegal imperialist war.
A result of U.S. led air strikes over Basra on March 22. AP/Nabil

More defense contractor/stateman news:

1) Advisors of Influence: Nine Members of the Defense Policy Board Have
Ties to Defense Contractors

2) Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee (as of December 2002)

3) Corporate Affiliations of Defense Policy Board Members

---- 1 on Friday, March 28, 2003 by CommonDreams.orgSupport the Warrior Not the War: Give Them Their Benefits!by Ashley L DeckerThe recent rally cry "Support Our Troops" seems to me little morethan a perverted, propaganda ploy to "Support the War." But we cansupport our troops, without supporting the war, by rectifying some ofthe following conditions.The House of Representatives have recently voted on the 2004 budgetwhich will cut funding for veteran's health care and benefit programsby nearly $25 billion over the next ten years. It narrowly passed bya vote of 215 to 212, and came just a day after Congress passed aresolution to "Support Our Troops." How exactly does this votesupport our troops? Does leaving our current and future veteransveterans without access to health care and compensation qualify assupporting them?The Veteran's Administration, plagued by recent budget cuts, has hadto resort to charging new veterans entering into its system a yearlyfee of $250 in order for them to receive treatment. It is a sad ironythat the very people being sent to fight the war are going to have topay to treat the effects of it.According to the Veteran's Administration, 28 million veterans arecurrently using VA benefits. Another 70 million Americans arepotential candidates for such programs. This amounts to a quarter ofthe country's population. Veterans and their families will sadlybegin finding that they have no place to turn for their medicaltreatment as V.A. hospitals across the country face closing theirdoors. With the budget shrinking, staff will be let go. This couldmean the loss of over 19,000 nurses. Without these nurses, this leadsto the loss of over 6.6 million outpatient visits. Approximately oneout of every two veterans could lose their only source of medicalcare. That is, if they even realize help is available to them. TheBush Administration recently ordered V.A. medical centers to stoppublicizing available benefits to veterans seeking assistance. Thisfollows discontinued enrollments of some eligible veterans forhealthcare benefits as of January, 2003.Bush Administration funding cuts will also prevent veterans fromreceiving their disability pensions. My father was granted 100%disability six years ago for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorderassociated with the Vietnam War. He deserves every cent of it. As doall soldiers who are willing to go to war. Under the Bushadministration, being granted the ability to receive war relatedcompensation has become a rare privilege, not a right as it shouldbe. Nearly a third of Gulf War veterans, about 209,000 veterans, havesubmitted claims to to the VA for disability. The backlog ofunprocessed claims has reached the astronomical count of 489,297, anumber which is unfortunately increasing all of time. There are alsocurrently 500,000 Compensation and Pension cases still pending.Making matters worse, forty percent of Vietnam Veterans are homeless.They went from the jungles of the war to the jungles of the street.Before President Bush decided to declare war, maybe he ought to haveconsidered correcting this situation first. How many current veteranswill return home, only to find themselves in the same situation?I have seen the effects of war written upon the face of a man whogrew old at 17. I have seen it in the way he awakes from yet anothernight terror. I have seen it in the countless pills he has to take.They have only succeeded in erasing his memory, but the images of thewar he fought are so graphic that they will never be able to stopplaying themselves upon his mind.Even I, his daughter, have not escaped unscathed. Exposure to thechemical Agent Orange has left me with several genetic problems,including growth problems and digestive ones. I fear that thesecurrent soldiers will be exposed to toxins that will not only affectthem, but their future offspring as well.And today we are told that we must "Support Our Troops." "Wear ayellow ribbon, wave your flag, support the Bush Administration's Waron Terror and War on Iraq." Questioning the war is equated withdeserting our troops or treason. And yet how are the warmongerssupporting our troops? By eliminating their healthcare and slashingtheir pensions. Let us support the warrior without supporting the war.Ashley L Decker is a student at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
And of course Joe Thompson has something helpful to say:
The Idiot has placed our military in deep shit in Iraq, evidenced by
the fact that he is sending 120 thousand troops from Ft. Hood, Texas
to the rescue and they won't be enough. Be outlandish, be satirical,
be heard. China and Russia are poised to enter into this war, but not
on our side. They know his threats cannot be backed up. They know
that "we are the mightiest military in the world" is a pile of empty
rhetoric. In Korea we were the mightiest military in the world, but
got our asses kicked back to the sea by an army of peasants, who
overwhelmed us with sheer numbers. Half of them didn't even
have weapons before they took them off our dead soldiers.
Our law enforcement is well equipped, but they are no match for
the unarmed numbers confronting them in the streets of America.
High tech becomes very low tech, very quickly. Keep fighting,
these little computers are mighty weapons in OUR war against
the terror of our government. We are linked together throughout
the world.

IN FOR THE LONG HAUL: I want a Perfect World and, by God, I'm going to get it!

The current "administration" lacks vision. So they bomb a million women here and starve a million children there. In what direction does this take us? What kind of future builds on these actions? Where are they leading us? What is the ultimate destination of our current foreign and domestic policy?

To these questions, history offers us an exact and clear answer: A war-ravished country, a starving population, the ghosts of concentration camps and a stark and lonely suicide in some squalid underground bunker (See the movie "Hitler's Secretary" for exact details).

I want a better world for myself and my children. I refuse to give up my dreams for anyone, especially not for the war-for-profit death machine that currently dominates and intimidates America. I hope I never have to actually die for my beliefs but if so, I hope I have the courage and kindness and vision that Christ, Buddha, Gandhi and MLK had -- to risk my life to create a world I can be proud of.

I am in this for the long haul.

Sincerely, Jane Stillwater, Berkeley, CA

"Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World Peace in one generation!"


Published on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 by the International Herald Tribune
Gaining an Empire, Losing Democracy?
by Norman Mailer it or not, want it or not, America is going to go to war because that is the only solution Bush and his people can see.

The dire prospect that opens, therefore, is that America is going to become a mega-banana republic where the army will have more and more importance in Americans' lives. It will be an ever greater and greater overlay on the American system. And before it is all over, democracy, noble and delicate as it is, may give way. My long experience with human nature - I'm 80 years old now - suggests that it is possible that fascism, not democracy, is the natural state.

Indeed, democracy is the special condition - a condition we will be called upon to defend in the coming years. That will be enormously difficult because the combination of the corporation, the military and the complete investiture of the flag with mass spectator sports has set up a pre-fascistic atmosphere in America already.

Here is an article that I wrote back in 1992. Unfortunately, not much has changed since then:

In general, adults treat other adults the way they were treated when they themselves were children. Therefore if we want to change the world into a better place we simply have to treat our children better -- starting with the next child we see.

What does our future hold? Let's imagine. Let's suppose that some spacemen come to visit the planet Earth in the year 2150 AD. What will they find?

What will Earth be like a hundred and fifty years from now? What would be some of the possible scenarios for our planet's future? Perhaps we could imagine a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario.

First, let's imagine what the Earth will be like if we simply take our current economic value priorities and project them into the future. If we continue to live exactly as we do now, what will our future spacemen visitors find? In what condition will they find the human race? I imagine any report they might make would sound like this:

"In the year 2150 AD, we observed the physical remains of the last human specimen on the planet Earth. Within two weeks of our arrival, the specimen had died an apparently painful and miserable death. The subject, whom for purposes of identification we called Omega, was covered with scabs, sores, and various forms of skin cancer. These ulcerations were apparently due to Omega's long-time exposure to toxins, radioactive pollutants, and ultraviolet radiation. Due to these ulcerations, we found Omega's nationality, race and sex difficult to distinguish.

"Approximately a week before its death, several of Omega's bones had been broken in an apparent struggle with another human over what appeared to be some rotting garbage. However, judging from site evidence, Omega, using a rock for a weapon, had successfully fought off and killed the other human. From the condition and location of the bodies we also concluded that Omega had lived for several days by eating its opponent's flesh. In spite of the nutrition it had obtained through acts of cannibalism, however, the last human being on Earth died on May 13, 2150 AD at approximately 2 am."

Now let's look at a second possible scenario for the year 2150 AD. Let's imagine that today we humans suddenly and miraculously decided to change our current economic value priorities in just two areas. First, suppose that we inexplicably began to give the preservation of nature a very high priority. And then, second, we inexplicably began to give the very highest priority of all (higher than weapons, defense, economic self-interest, the tyranny of the bottom line, and even the life styles of the rich and famous) to loving, educating, protecting, guiding, and cherishing our children.

How would just these two simple changes effect the outcome of our future? It is not hard to imagine. Our spacemen would probably discover that we humans were living in Paradise, Utopia, the Garden of Eden:

"When we came to Earth we were pleasantly surprised to find a place where every human creature lived up to his or her very highest potential. Everywhere we looked, people were busy being the best that they could be. This excellence of mental, physical and spiritual achievement appeared to be the result of the type of child-rearing techniques this planet had developed over the years. Human beings appeared to treasure their young to such an extent that even the smallest children were bright and curious creatures, fearlessly exploring their environment while whole nations of adults nurtured and supported their educational and developmental explorations. Children were never beaten, spoiled or lied to. Conflicts between parents and children were not resolved by parents simply abusing children until the children finally agreed with them. The media did not bombard children with graphic images of violent conflict-resolving techniques.

"As a result of the approach, violence was not usually considered as a tool for solving conflict. Instead, each child learned techniques of harmony, independence and self-reliance as they were guided through childhood by many loving adults. And when one adult grew tired, another would take his or her place. No one person was left alone to burn out from bearing the brunt of guiding and educating the children.

"Further, children were considered to be the most valuable and important product of the planet and each one was treated like a rare jewel. Cruelty to children, infant mortality, disease, neglect, exploitation, ignorance, and hunger were considered as shocking and gross wastes of world resources. Were a child to starve, this abominable horror would make front-page headlines in all the newspapers.

"We found that Earth's enlightened educational policy produced adult humans beings who were independent, intelligent, fearless, friendly, creative, productive, rational, and happy. Our stay on planet Earth has been the highlight of our inter-stellar exploration."

Both of these versions of our planet's future are very possible. The choice is up to us. However, if we choose to change for the better, how can we do it The process is slow but effective: All of us must weigh every action we take against this simple criteria -- will my proposed action harm a child?

And here's something for all you'all who have nothing to do but read text for the next hour or so: Two chapters from a book I wrote entitled "Pictures of a Future World" (written when my kids were little and I didn't have to work 40 hours a week). It's about the hardships of being witnesses for peace:


While Wan Tai and Ava were monitoring Hernando Cortés, the Shaman and Adar were tracking Francisco Coronado, another notorious Spanish conquistador, on his search for the seven lost cities of gold. In his desperate search for the fabled cities, Coronado trekked all up through northern Mexico and far out across what would someday become New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The Shaman and Adar unwillingly followed in his wake, just as Wan Tai and Ava had followed the brutal trail of destruction left behind by Hernando Cortés.

Coronado and Cortés were very similar in many ways. Both were conquistadors. Both had been lured to the New World by their hunger for wealth and their lust for power. Coronado and Cortés, however, differed greatly from one another in one respect--their approach to killing. While both men were bloodthirsty mercenaries, Cortés and his men always waded straight into battle with the intention of killing their prey as soon as possible. Coronado, on the other hand, seemed to feel that he hadn't done his killing properly unless he was able to lie to and deceive his victims first. The Shaman and Adar were soon to discover this not-too-subtle difference.

In the year 1540, in New Mexico, the Shaman and Adar stood on top of a hill overlooking the Taos Pueblo. The sun shone warmly down upon them as they waited for Francisco Coronado and his troops to arrive. Below them the sleepy adobe town of Taos also lay basking in the warmth of the mid-day sun. The town had an aged, well-used look about it. For many, many years before the arrival of the Spaniards, there had been a pueblo at Taos. For centuries the village had served as a hub for farmers and traders in the region and its granaries and shops still attracted buyers and sellers from all over the nearby countryside.

The Shaman and Adar looked down upon the peaceful village beneath them and watched its slow day-to-day life move across the field of their vision. Over two hundred people lived in the stout adobe buildings of the town, which were limned with the same earth colors as the land around them. A few villagers gathered at a well, talking and laughing. Children played in front of shops and homes, while their mothers and fathers worked next to them or in nearby fields.

Taos pueblo presented a pleasant tableau. And then, for the people in this little village and their centuries-old way of life, time suddenly ran out.

The Shaman and Adar looked up from their pleasant enjoyment of peaceful village life and saw Francisco Coronado and his troops on horseback hurriedly enter the valley below. The Shaman, watching the Spaniards' determined approach to the village and having a visionary foreknowledge of their intentions, shuddered in anticipation of the horrors that were to come.

Coronado rode relentlessly onward toward the town, perhaps hoping that Taos Pueblo was one of the Seven Cities of Cibola, the seven cities of gold, and that his illusion of instant riches was at last to become a reality.

As the Shaman stood and watched Coronado enter the valley below, Adar stood beside him, her small hand gently nestled inside his large one. He turned to her with a worried expression on his face, wondering how to best protect her from the slaughter that he knew was about to come. Adar, always a loving, caring person, had never witnessed a murder before. Back at Water Home, she could barely even stand to hear Lion Cloud talk about his deer stalking adventures. Up until now time, fate, and the Shaman had protected her from all that was evil in the world just as loving, hopeful parents might try to keep their precious children innocent of the evil ways of men for as long as possible.

"This vigil is not going to be easy, Adar," the Shaman told her as they stood on the hillside above Taos, catching their first glimpses of horses and white men. "We are very close to the ruins of Mesa Verde. If you like, I could take you there instead."

Adar smiled up into the worried eyes of her husband. "I want to be of service," she answered. "And I want to be with you. I will do what I have to do, and I will endure what must be endured. It has been easy for me to be a gentle wife so far. But will gentleness still come easily to me when I begin to feel the turn of the screw? It is time to find out."

The Shaman looked into Adar's soul once again and said to her in a tone of formality and respect, "I picked you for my own long ago, dear wife, because I could see that your heart was bottomless and that compassion filled your soul. You are able to withstand any test. This I know. But I had hoped that the horror of proving my faith in you might forever be avoided. And that you could remain free of the stain and taint that some call the knowledge of good and evil."

Adar smiled at his formal request. It so reminded her of their wedding vows. But now was not a time for chivalry or even for dainty femininity. She knew that they both had a job to do. "It is enough to know that you love me," she answered him. "Let us go do what we have to do."

Silently Adar and the Shaman turned their gaze toward the pueblo. They watched silently as Francisco Coronado and about forty Spaniards on horseback began to canter down the valley, obviously anxious to get to the pueblo which lay before them.

When the village inhabitants saw Coronado and his men approaching Taos on horseback, they were overcome with panic and fear. They had never seen horses before and the size, speed and power of the approaching beasts completely overwhelmed them. Most of them fled in terror for their lives. Only a few brave men stood their ground, spears and arrows ready to defend their homes against these new devil animals and the men who controlled them. The defenders courageously made their stand against these new terrors, standing in front of the pueblo with their feet firmly planted in the dust as if they would willingly lose their lives protecting their homes and families.

In the background, a few more village men hovered behind walls and buildings, motivated more by their curiosity than by their courage. Occasionally one of them would peek his head out from behind his concealment in order to take a better look at the new monstrosities approaching the pueblo. Then, looking irresolute and fearful, each lone observer would quickly duck back down behind his cover.

The Shaman and Adar watched silently as Coronado dismounted in front of the small group of Original Americans who defended the pueblo. Coronado's men remained on horseback and the defenders maintained their hostile stance. Moving slowly, like someone trying to reassure a skittish animal, Coronado smiled and laid down his sword. Then, in sign language and pantomime, he attempted to make his meaning clear to the defenders. He motioned to two horses, whereupon two Spaniards quickly dismounted their beasts and handed their reins to Coronado. Coronado took the reins, lead the horses up to the pueblo defenders and then pointed to his stomach and his mouth, saying in Spanish "I will give you two of my horses in exchange for food."

The villagers talked among themselves briefly, nodded in understanding to Coronado, and cautiously began to approach the two horses. One man, perhaps the chief, took hold of the horses' reins, bravely touched one of the horses' flanks and smiled. He then turned to motion to the other villagers who had been in hiding that it was safe to come out.

Soon the whole village was out of hiding, even the women and children who had fled toward the hills earlier. They circled the white men curiously, staring at their equipment and pointing at their horses.

Reassured by Coronado's friendly manner and his awesome gifts, the villagers began to relax their vigilance and to make gestures of friendship. Some villagers ran back to their homes to bring out food and gifts for the strangers. One small boy toddled over to one of the conquistadors and shyly reached up to hold his hand. Coronado himself drank from a water cup held out to him by a pretty young girl with colorful strands of yarn braided into her two long black hair. The village began to take on a festive atmosphere. An assortment of food for the new guests was laid out in front of the chief's house.

And then suddenly, in the midst of the festive activity, on a signal from Coronado, the conquistadors pulled their swords from out of their scabbards and the sun glinted on metal as all the friendly villagers were suddenly slaughtered.

Adar hid her face in the Shaman's breast, horrified by Coronado's treachery.

The Shaman was amazed to find that he himself was shaking like a leaf. Trying hard to put on a brave facade for Adar's sake however, he managed to murmur some words to comfort his wife. "This is the way of men," he told her while trying to sound calm and knowing in a voice nearly falsetto with emotion. "We must learn about it. We must see and know all of the masks of evil in men's minds if we are ever to help mankind to remove these masks or to transcend them."

The Shaman spoke these words of reason and reassurance to his wife but he himself felt shaken to his core by the brutal insanity he had just witnessed and his well-meaning words only sounded like platitudes to his horrified mind.

After the killing was over, Coronado and his men searched the pueblo for gold and, finding nothing, set fire to the town in disgust and disappointment.

"Is there really a city of gold?" Adar asked the Shaman later when she had rested enough to be able to speak clearly again.

The Shaman thought for a minute and then answered, "Yes. There is. The conquistadors are actually looking for Mesa Verde and for us: Because the gold they seek is happiness and peace of mind, Adar. And, because of their greed, because of their butchery, and because of the treachery we have just witnessed, they will never be able to find it. It is the great tragedy of our times that the very things that men do to bring themselves happiness are the only things that forever ruin their chances for finding it. These men are to be pitied as well as decried."

For the next several years Adar and the Shaman stood on numerous hills and rises throughout both the American Southwest and Northern Mexico. They watched the same scene, the one they had witnessed at Taos Pueblo, re-enacted over and over again. The parts written to be played by Original Americans needed to be continually re-cast as the stench of bodies piled up at the end of each act. But the Spanish participants in Coronado's little passion play remained the same for show after show, never tiring of their roles. Meanwhile the Shaman and Adar, Coronado's unseen audience, dreaded each performance with all their hearts.

In 1542, Francisco Coronado returned to Mexico. In 1546, the Spanish colonial government accused him of committing acts of cruelty against Original Americans. His trial gave the Shaman hope that knowledge of good and evil did exist among the Spaniards, but not for long. Coronado was acquitted of all charges.

"At least we know that it's not the knowledge of good and evil that is missing here," commented the Shaman. "What is missing here is the desire to act upon that knowledge. But what good are ethics if they are ignored?"

Adar grimly agreed. "Perhaps a truly wise man is one who can conceive of evil, be tempted by it, yet proceed in the direction of goodness even in spite of his temptations."

"The Spanish clearly lack wisdom," the Shaman responded with a touch of gallows humor, "if wisdom is at all similar to restraint! The only restraint I've seen Coronado show these past six years has been his valiant efforts to control his need to tell the truth."

The Shaman and Adar, feeling emotionally drained and having reached their psychological limits, left New Galacia, Coronado's province in western Mexico, soon after the trial was over. With heavy hearts they started out upon the long trek back up to the high mountains far to the north where the Clan's secret retreat site was hidden. Their mood was solemn as they headed away from Mexico. Adar especially seemed worn down by her constant viewing of corpses. To the Shaman, she seemed smaller and older; more fragile and precious to him. She was quiet much of the time and appeared to be turning her thoughts inward. He sensed that it would take her several years of sunshine and happy conversations with her friends before her mind would even begin to relax from its ordeal.

The Shaman had not been as affected by the scenes of horror as his wife had been, for he had been a man of wisdom for many years even back before the retreat from Mesa Verde. For many years already he had traveled extensively within the labyrinths of his own mind and the minds of other men, and although he chose to reject or consider as illusion much of what he had encountered within his psychological journeys, nothing that he had seen within the depths of Coronado's mind had surprised him. He had seen it all many times before.

"But I did not like it," he murmured to himself. "I did not like it."

Why hadn't Coronado and his Spanish cutthroats also been able to see blood lust as false illusion leading nowhere, he kept asking himself.

One day, as they trudged slowly northward toward their mountain retreat, Adar pulled at the Shaman's arm and brought him quickly out of his meditations on the frailty of human nature. "Look!" She cried, pointing excitedly. "There are two of those animals the Spaniards call horses! Oh, let's do try to catch them!"

The Shaman smiled, delighted to see Adar's attention focused on something other than morbid thoughts of Francisco Coronado. "Let's do it!" he said. "You stand here and offer corn. I'll try to circle around behind them."

They whistled and sang and shouted to the horses, who seemed quite relieved to be once again among the company of men. The horses surrendered themselves easily.

After a few days of trepidation and experimentation, the Shaman and Adar became equestrians for the first time in their lives. They both discovered that they thoroughly enjoyed everything connected with horses and their hearts raced as they thrilled to the exhilaration and freedom of galloping swiftly across deserts and grasslands. One horse, a large black stallion, they named "Thunder". The other horse, an aging bay mare with a sweet disposition, they named "Flower".

In the days and weeks that followed, the Shaman would come up to Thunder each morning with a bridle in his hand. At the sight of the bridle, Thunder would storm and protest as if the world were about to end but after the Shaman talked to him for a few minutes and offered him grain, Thunder quickly settled down and thereafter seemed to actually enjoy being ridden.

Flower, on the other hand, made her benevolent feelings for Adar clear from the very first and, when not being ridden, would follow Adar around like a puppy dog.

After weeks of riding through hundreds of miles of flat, deserted landscape, the horses' breathing became slightly labored as they began the subtle climb upward toward the Sierras. As the altitude slowly increased, the high mountains loomed above the weary travelers like sleeping giants. Then, after two more weeks of upgrade climbing, the riders and their mounts finally began to enter the high mountains themselves. As the Shaman and Adar walked their horses slowly up the narrow rocky trails, the air became perfumed with the fresh smell of pine and fir.

The two riders greedily drank in the beauty and serenity of the exquisite alpine panoramas all around them, while their horses delightedly nuzzled the wild flowers that grew in the crevices of the boulders that lined the trail. Adar occasionally stopped to frolic cheerfully in the small patches of snow that still lingered beside the trail despite the hot summer sun that beat steadily down upon it. She also made snowballs which she threw at the Shaman's back as he stooped to gather herbs to make into tea for that evening's campfire. Whenever a snowball would hit him he would laughingly complain that Adar was "not acting with the dignity of a Clan elder" but that did not keep him from throwing one or two back at her. Adar had the good sense to try to duck her husband's snowballs. However, the Shaman had a strong right arm and a deadly aim.

On the last day of their long journey, the Shaman and Adar rode side by side up a steep rocky trail, the last leg of their long journey home. All morning long the two weary travelers had been energized by the beauty and tranquility of the high mountains that surrounded them and, as they rode, they smiled at each other often and talked excitedly about how glad they would be to see their Clan friends again. But as they began to approach the last few miles of trail leading to their mountain home, the couple's thoughts once again turned back to the somber events they had witnessed in northern Mexico.

Although she was normally a pleasant and optimistic woman, Adar began to take on a contentious frame of mind as she began to mull the events of the past few years over in her mind in preparation for telling them to the rest of the Clan. She thought of what she would have to tell Lion Cloud and Loria and the rest; she thought of what her dear friends' stunned reactions might be to her gruesome, macabre tales; and she thought of the implications, ramifications and effects the European invasions would have upon all Original Americans in general and upon the Clan's future specifically. How would all the Europeans' cruelty and greed affect the handful of people she loved so well, she asked herself again and again, gradually working herself up into a state of anxiety and despair. "What is going to happen to us?" she grumbled aloud, more to herself than to the Shaman.

"Us?" asked the Shaman, startled out of his reverie by Adar's sudden question and hostile tone of voice.

"I mean all of us," she stated in a flat, hostile tone. "You. Me. Wan Tai. Our Clan. Are we going to be forced to spend the rest of this millennium watching real life re-enactments in flesh and blood of the human race's worst nightmares? Is that what is in store for us?"

"I guess so," sighed the Shaman.

Adar's voice took on a high desperate note as all her fear and anger, deeply suppressed for the last two years, suddenly started pouring out. "And what if we can't stand it any more," she cried out. "What if our minds crack and we become insane? And what will happen to us and to the rest of the world if we end up becoming just like them?" Adar's rage seemed bottomless. Her voice cut like a diamond into the Shaman's heart.

"Are we powerless to do anything else?" Adar cried out. "Can we do nothing to stop this carnage?" she cried to the mountains and the valleys and the sky around her as if challenging all of the universe itself to a duel to the death. "What kind of horrible mess have we gotten ourselves into? Why can't we stop it! When will it stop? When will these savages who call themselves civilized men stop butchering each other and come to their senses?" Adar's voice shook. "Why! Why! Why! Why us?" she cried in anger and frustration. "Why is it necessary? And when will it stop?"

"I don't know, Adar," the Shaman quietly replied. "I wish I could tell you, but I just don't know. All we can hope for is that we can just wade through this horrible nightmare as quickly as possible."

"Just get on with the killing?"

"Just get on with the killing."

"And hope it will end soon?"

"And hope it will end soon."

Adar rode on in silence for several miles. "It just seems so pointless," she finally sighed, as her scowl slowly disappeared and one small tear appeared in its place. Slowly it trickled down her cheek. "Oh, husband," she sadly whispered. "Hold my hand and give some of your courage to this fragile woman. There is so much to bear. I feel weak and afraid."

The husband and wife rode on, enveloped in the high mountain silence once again.

After a while, the Shaman's voice again broke the stillness of the mountain air. This time he spoke not so much as to counsel his wife but more in order to clarify his own tangled and pessimistic thoughts. Trying to put everything they had witnessed so far and everything they would have to witness in the future into a more positive perspective, he began to sort out the whirlwind of events that swirled around them; to sort them into words that would hopefully, somehow make sense. Adar gauged the seriousness of his discourse by the fact that he didn't even preface it with his usual little joke about "feeling a lecture coming on", and respectfully listened to her husband's words.

"In the beginning of all this," the Shaman began, "when we lived back at Mesa Verde, Wan Tai had a vision. Do you remember?"

"Yes," nodded Adar.

"Four centuries ago, Wan Tai predicted that all this horror would occur. He said that the killing would begin and that we must prepare ourselves for it. He said that. And so that is what we did. Do you remember?" Adar again nodded yes.

"For the last four hundred years, we have prepared for this," the Shaman stated. "We are now adequately prepared.

"On this point, we must have faith and trust ourselves. And we must also trust Wan Tai because what he had warned us about so long ago is now happening all around us.

"We must also understand that it will take time and effort to bring about change. It has taken thousands and thousands of years for men...not only the Europeans...remember that Aztecs and other Original Americans committed atrocities also long before the arrival of the white men...for men to learn to become so evil, to stray so far from their course. We cannot expect them to change overnight, to evolve overnight. We must, through an almost blind act of faith, continue to keep upon our present course of action and not waiver from our plan."

"And Wan Tai's vision predicted an end to all the slaughter," Adar encouraged him.


"And so we must have faith that our preparations will see us through and that some good will come of it; that we have chosen a path that is good and that, no matter what doubts arise, we must have faith in our path and stay on it."

The Shaman sighed again. "Yes."

For several more miles of rocky mountain trail, the couple rode on in silence while the Shaman once again tried to arrange his thoughts into some semblance of continuity and order.

After an hour or so of quiet riding through peaceful mountain scenery, the Shaman resumed speaking his thoughts aloud. "I have based my life on my trust in the eventual transcendence of good over evil," he stated. "This faith has been my creed. And if I were to feel that there would never be a day when good could not transform evil into some higher power, then I could not go on being the Clan's shaman. Nor would I want to."

The Shaman stopped his horse and dismounted. He watched the golden sun as it started to set behind the western Sierras.

"It is only my trust and faith in a higher good," he continued, "that allows me to be a shaman, to walk freely among the minds of men, visiting both their worst nightmares and my own. Faith is the guiding light that I follow. It allows me to go deep into even the most hellish nightmare and to come out unscathed. Without faith, I could not be a shaman."

"But why do you have to continue to go into those living hells?" Adar asked him, asking the same question he had frequently asked himself since their encounter with the Spanish.

He gave the only answer he knew. "Because only then can I help the people who have no faith, who constantly live in those nightmares, to whom the illusion has become the reality and who have no other way of getting back to sanity without my help."

The sun set behind the mountains. The Shaman and Adar tethered their horses for the night, made their camp and began to prepare their evening meal. As they made their campfire and cooked their dinner side by side, each felt comforted and reassured by the presence of the other and that the afternoon's conversations had clarified their purposes and strengthened their resolution to continue on toward achieving their costly goals. But the day's introspection had been costly and exhausting to their minds and to their souls and for the rest of the evening the Shaman and Adar just told each other funny stories about their childhoods, took turns braiding each other's hair and made every effort they could think of to coddle themselves and to cheer themselves up.

The next morning, after months of hard travel, the Shaman and Adar finally reached their destination, the Clan's most recent refuge.

"Home at last!" Adar cried out as they approached the familiar winding trail that led up the mountainside to the fortress-like cave that held the Clan's workshop, granary and living quarters. "I feel like I've been out wandering among monsters and goblins for all these past years," she exclaimed. "It's going to be like paradise to see actual human faces again. I can't wait!"

With her heels she urged Flower up the narrow path, all the while beaming like a small girl about to be reunited with her mother. Frustrated with the horse's slow progress up the narrow trail, she jumped from its back and began to run toward home, blissfully anxious and eager to be home and safe once more.

Loria was the first one to greet the travelers. She threw her arms around Adar, cried when she saw the Shaman and only after several minutes of tearful reunion did she pause to take in the astonishing spectacle of the two huge new beasts accompanying them. Thunder, fully 16 hands high, especially towered over her. "Are they monsters," she inquired nervously, "or are they angels?"

Adar smiled at her normally-brave friend's sudden timidity. "No," she replied. "They will not bite you. But do watch out. Flower may try to give you a hug!"

After the horses had been examined and exclaimed over by everyone in the Clan and he and Adar had had time to catch their breath, the Shaman called a Clan council meeting for that night so that he might tell everyone at the same time about his adventures with Coronado.

Wan Tai and Ava were already back from their vigil in Mexico and they also spoke at the council meeting, telling the Shaman and Adar about their own parallel experiences with the new Spanish nightmare.

When they had heard Wan Tai's sad story about Hernando Cortez, the Shaman and Adar both sadly confirmed that they too had witnessed the same type of ghastly murder.

Lion Cloud, Loria, Xaño, Witten, Daros, and Ahira grimly listened to the new descriptions of butchery and genocide brought by the Shaman and Adar. They all stirred uneasily, looking from one Clan member to another, trying to grasp the enormity of these horror stories; trying to stifle incredulity and disbelief.

As Adar at last grew silent after telling everyone about the miracle of the horses, the Shaman spoke. He said, "We were wise to build this secret sanctuary up here in the isolated high country. In the future, we will need it sorely. We have underestimated man's capacity for evil."

He paused. "When I say evil, I mean specifically this: I refer to evil as a belief that seizes the hearts of some unlucky men. What these men truly believe is, first, that there is a dreadful lack of something in their lives. And, second, that this dreadful emptiness is a valid justification that gives them the right to do anything that they can conceive of in order to fill it. I do believe that in their own minds, men seized by evil say to themselves that their own need is so much greater than the needs of others that it is understandable, acceptable, and justifiable for them to break all codes of ethics and humanity in order to obtain relief."

Lion Cloud rose to speak. "I haven't seen these Spaniards at work in their killing grounds," he stated. "And if I did not know you so well and trust you so completely, I would have to say that your stories could not possibly be true. It seems to me that no one, no one human could feel so needy as to commit this endless list of atrocities. Even now it does not seem possible to me." Lion Cloud became silent. Silently he stood watching the Shaman for several moments and then he sat down.

"I who was there, I who saw them," the Shaman answered, "I myself cannot fully comprehend the wholeness of this evil. But it was real. It was there. And it was more powerful than anything we had imagined. It seemed as if all of their human intelligence, civilization, and grace had disappeared before our eyes. It was as if they had, inside of their minds, slipped backwards to the caves beneath their brains that held their animal origins. And their powerful need to commit violence seemed as if it was so strong that the violence of animals was all their brains could remember."

Wan Tai spoke next. "The blinding need and greed of the Spaniards hit us like lightning. Our hundred years of preparation saved us from being killed but not even we were powerful enough to change the course of these evil men's lives. And after a few disastrous and dangerous attempts to interfere, we did not even try. Such is their need. Such is the nature of the men we are dealing with. Never forget this. Never take their presence lightly."

The Shaman spoke again. "It was wise to leave some of us here," he said. "As it has happened, we have badly needed a reserve of Clan members whose minds have not been touched and burned by the Spaniards. It's going to take Adar, myself, Wan Tai and Ava years and years to re-establish our strength and peace of mind; or to regain even a grain of our former innocence. In the meantime you, Lion Cloud, and also Loria, Xaño, Ahira, Daros, and Witten must serve as our eyes and our ears. We must ask you to take our places on the charnel ground while we replenish ourselves. Further, we must expand and develop our home here in the mountains. We must store up food and we must store up courage. We're going to need them."

Adar spoke next. "While I was living among the Spaniards I was brave. I did what I had to do. But now that I am safely home among my Clan, I feel only shrunken and defeated. My husband speaks of evil and need. He is correct. And yet..." She paused for several minutes, staring at the ground. "And yet," she finally continued, "when I saw those evil men perform their atrocities and abominations, they did not look like they were in need. They looked happy! For them, killing was fun. To the Spaniards we saw, everything seemed like some kind of glorious Festival of Murder. They were enjoying themselves as if they were...happy. Again Adar paused sadly. "I am sorry to let you down," she finally murmured. "I can do other things here at home to support you. I can work and I can pray. But I can never, ever go back to the outside world again."

The Shaman took her hand tenderly, but his words to her were stern. "Never is a long time, Adar. We are working now in order to change all that. Someday you may want to go back again. Listen to me when I say that someday the world will be a thing of beauty."

"Until that time," Adar answered, "I will do my work from here."

The council ended in confusion. Everyone, even the Shaman and Wan Tai, felt that perhaps they had bitten off more than they could chew. Even though the Clan had done the unthinkable and achieved immortality, they still felt helpless, frustrated and useless in the face of the Spanish invasion. Had their presence at the scene of the killings changed anything, they asked themselves. Had their centuries of purification saved the life of even one Original American? Or changed the ways of even one Spaniard? As far as they could see, no.

Every Clan member deeply felt the confusion and uncertainty regarding what could or should or would happen next. Should they try to stop the killing? Should they try to change the killers? Should they try to save the victims? Or should they just continue to witness and to watch and to wait for better times as they had done so far, holding on to their faith that in the midst of all this human suffering there would eventually be a use for their

presence here on Earth?

In the face of the Clan's confusion, the Shaman suggested that they carry on as they had been doing until such time as another path became clear to them.


In the year 1502 Daros, Zerah, Shem and Uzal were enjoying the pleasures of life at Water Home and preparing themselves to be next in line to encounter the new European invaders. Without a care, they talked and laughed with Loria and Lion Cloud as they fished in the bay for salmon to dry and pack along on their journey. They also spent the languid and beautiful summer days consulting with the Shaman and Adar about what to expect once they actually came face-to-face with these new invaders, but in their innocence, they utterly failed to imagine the living nightmares that lay before them.

Meanwhile a man named Francisco Pizarro was living half-way across the world, in Spain's rugged, mountainous and poverty-stricken Estremadura province. Pizarro also was preparing to make a move, but his life at that time was certainly not one of pleasure or joy. A product of sixteenth century Spain, Pizarro was an illegitimate, illiterate, ambitious, ruthless and desperate man whose bitter heart scorned hope and idealism; sought only power and revenge.

Pizarro's only hope of breaking through the unyielding chains of his lowly caste position was to ship out to the New World in search of power and wealth. He was driven to brave the hardships and uncertainty of the New World by his overwhelming craving to escape his lowly position among the dregs of Spanish society. He desperately desired to become a grandee, a man among men, or even a petty noble like his "father". And the New World offered the only road to power and wealth available to men of his breed.

As he sat in the only meager patch of shade, on the packed dirt in front of his mother's thatched hut, an aggravating sun beat down and scorched the air he breathed. He gazed sourly at the squalor all around him and cursed his destiny to be born into such a life. "This place is nothing!" bellowed Pizarro. "My life is nothing!

"Look at my father up there on the hill with his respectable wife and his grand herds of cattle. And here I sit, a bastard with no future except to herd his hairy, smelly goats for the rest of my life! Damn." Pizarro kicked the chair next to him and spat on the dusty ground, resenting his fate to be born a bastard; to be born in one of Spain's poorest provinces; to be born with no hope of advancement within that society's rigid and archaic caste system. Stomping his foot in frustration, he accidentally pushed his one crust of stale bread off the table and into the dust. "That's it," he decided. "I am getting out of here. I am leaving this dump." He jumped up, furtively stole his mother's savings which she had carefully hidden under a floor tile in the kitchen and ran out of the hut. "Goodbye, Estremadura, you piss-hole," he cried. "Nothing--not even mosquitoes and jungles and savage natives--can be worse than this nothing place. This nothing life. I have nothing here. I have nothing to lose. I'm off to the New World."

With out even a second thought Pizarro walked to Cadiz and shipped out to the Caribbean.

Pizarro's plan to better himself worked even beyond his own expectations. By 1520 he was a wealthy and influential citizen of the newly-founded Panama City. As he sat in the shade of his fine veranda, watching carefully as his indian servants poured his wine and fanned his brow, he muttered drunkenly to himself. "This is better than Estremadura. I wish my goat-grandee of a father could see me now! Ha!" However, Pizarro was bored and annoyed with his life even now. Almost as a diversion, he reached over, grabbed his cane and brought it ruthlessly down across the back of a small indian child who had dared to look at him while refilling his wine glass. The child immediately winced and cowered, much to Pizarro's delight. "Yes, if only my father could see me now," he exclaimed. But abusing children on the veranda of his back-country thatch mansion was not enough for Pizarro, no matter how rich the New World had made him so far. He wanted more, much more. Like the rest of Spain's avaricious conquistadors, all products of Spain's unforgiving caste system, he was greedy, malcontent and mean--a nasty remnant of what had once been a human being. All compassion and kindness had been beaten and starved out of him and he was driven only by an insatiable desire for social status and material wealth, no matter what the ethical cost.

Pizarro had the crying and disfigured indian child removed. He then called for his hat and went down into the town to look for further opportunities for self-advancement.

That day in the Panama City mercado, Pizarro began hearing rumors and tales of a wealthy civilization to the south where the streets were paved with gold. These stories fed Pizarro's growing lust for more power and wealth. Alluring visions of returning to Spain as top dog, lording himself over all those who had formerly abused him, kept gnawing at his brain.

In 1527, Pizarro organized an expedition and set off to find this fabled golden empire that would make him rich and powerful, illustrious and omnipotent.

In 1528 Pizarro discovered that the rumors and tales he had loved so much were actually true. When he reached the golden shores of Inca Peru, he was ecstatic as he discovered a paradise of wealth beyond his wildest dreams. He saw buildings made of gold, walls tiled with gold, idols sculpted from gold, golden urns, golden goblets, golden plates, golden furniture and a ruling class adorned with gold ornaments. Suddenly Pizarro saw the possibility of all his dreams coming true beyond his wildest imaginings and, with his intentions obsessively focused upon acquiring gold bullion, he set about to conquer and destroy the unique, extraordinary and magnificent Inca civilization.

In 1533, at the slaughter of Cajamarca, Pizarro used swords, horses, guns and trickery to massacre thousands and thousands of Incas simply because they stood between him and the gold that would make him rich.

Luckily for Pizarro, his men captured Atahaulpa, the Incas' Golden Sun King. Pizarro then sent a letter to the retreating Inca warriors, demanding a fabulous ransom for their king. He demanded that a warehouse be filled to the height of a man with gold. The Incas, because they revered their king as a god, paid the ransom. Then, upon receiving his warehouse full of golden statues, tiles, coins, and art, Pizarro personally slit Atahaulpa's throat.

With their leader dead, the Incas put up resistance to the Spanish invasion but their social structure, organization, leadership and hope had been shattered at Cajamarca. They were easily conquered and subjugated to a doom of insufferable toil in the stench-filled mines of their Spanish tormentors. Inca men were recruited for the mines from villages all over Peru. The life of an Inca miner was so harsh and unbearable that each man's family gave him a funeral before he left the village because they were almost certain he would never return. And even those who did return were merely haunted ghosts, shells of the men they had once been. In the mines, the temperatures were unbearable, the food was non-existent, the labor was endless, the beatings were severe and the mercury fumes that permeated the mines were poisonous. An Inca miner had the life expectancy of 3 months.

After the dust of the battle of Cajamarca had settled, Pizarro wondered aloud at his luck in conquering the Incas. Using translators he inquired into the matter and discovered that part of his grand conquest had been due to pure luck. When they first arrived in South America, the Spaniards had discovered the vast and wealthy Inca empire at a time when it was emersed in a civil war that brought dissension and bloodshed to over half the continent of South America. The war had been fought between two vast and well-organized Inca armies, each one loyal to one of two brothers who were fighting for the right of succession after the death of their father, the old Sun King.

The Inca empire, before the war, had been a strong civilization organized and run by the Sun King in Cuzco. It was an amazingly powerful nation-state, superior in many ways even to the European monarchies of the time and, in many ways, equally dictatorial. Like the life of the average Spanish peasant, the life of the average Inca citizen was totally controlled by the state but, unlike European peasants, Inca citizens were completely protected against hunger and want in exchange for their labor and devotion. But, like the Spanish monarchs, the Sun King was totally in charge. Inca citizens served their lord from the cradle to the grave in blind obedience and unwavering devotion to the point that, when the succession was challenged, the entire nation was shaken to the core by the sudden lack of infallibility in their high leader. First, over 200,000 soldiers and civilians were killed in the War of the Two Brothers, suddenly weakening one of most powerful empires in the world. Then Pizarro had further reduced the ability of the Incas to fight back against the conquistadors by killing Atahaulpa, the winner of the war of succession. Never before had a Sun King been even contradicted in conversation let alone killed. The Incas were stunned.

Upon hearing the story of his good timing in arriving in South America, Pizarro was delighted. He was totally delighted with the opportunities that fate had handed to him on a platter--a golden platter. He was collecting vast amounts of gold. He sent gold back to Spain where he was finally granted his coveted titles and glories by a grateful Spanish monarch. He had killed thousands of Incas in battle. And now, under his governance, thousands and thousands more were dying in the slavery and horror of the Spanish mines, accumulating more gold for Pizarro.

Hidden by the shadows of the Andes altaplano, Zerah and her three consorts stood and watched it all. First they watched as Pizarro and his men butchered and enslaved the entire Inca nation. Then they watched as the Spaniards finally became tired of slaughtering Original Americans, turned to those closer at hand and began to slaughter each other as the Spaniards' insatiable blood-lust erupted into a bloody civil war. Then in 1541 the four Clan members witnessed Pizarro himself fall under the sword of a fellow Spaniard.

With their mouths open and their eyes round with amazement, Zerah, Shem, Uzel and Daros watched in horror as Pizarro and his men gleefully indulged themselves in a twenty-year killing spree. History books would later call Pizarro a brave hero, but to the Clan members who witnessed his orgy of devastation he was nothing more than a crazed mad-dog serial killer.

Daros, even more than the others, was very deeply effected by the vicious exterminations that took place right before his eyes. "Why are they doing this," he moaned again and again. "Don't they know that human life is sacred and precious?"

Zerah and the others were powerless to answer Daros. They did not even attempt to explain Pizarro's irrational, unexplainable behavior.

At first Daros tried to stop Pizarro. He, like Adar and Wan Tai before him, had first assumed that he possessed the power to stop the conquistadors from harming others, but this illusion was quickly shattered. Even as early as his first meeting with Pizarro in Panama City, Daros learned the truth of his impotency when he ran up to throw himself between Pizarro and the indian boy. Pizarro vaguely pushed Daros aside as if he were a shadow or a breeze.

Even though his attempts to stop Pizarro failed again and again, Daros would not give up and as he attempted again and again to deflect the flood of human folly that pushed the Spaniards on, Daros' strength and energy began to drain away from him almost as if a vampire were sucking his blood. He grew weaker and weaker. After Daros attempted to interfere with the Spanish butchery at Cajamarca, Zerah and the others had to physically drag him back into the safety of the mountains. He was not even able to walk by himself. The Spaniards had drained his life force from him and left him a piteous wreck.

Daros' deteriorated physical condition scared Zarah and the others but what scared them even more was the change in Daros himself. His warm and affectionate heart had begun to turn cold and uncaring. His thoughts were also becoming just as petty and greedy as the twisted thinking of the Spaniards. Daros had not been able to change the Spaniards for the better but they had been able to change him for the worse. Slowly and relentlessly, like a man mired in quicksand, Daros was being dragged down by the Spaniards, down into their evil little hell of need and greed.

After great effort, Zerah, Shem and Uzel finally succeeded in dragging Daros up into the higher regions of the Andes mountains where they would be temporarily safe from Spaniards. Soon they set up a makeshift retreat camp inside an abandoned Inca peasant hut, where they could get away from the Spaniards and also from the bone-chilling cold temperatures typical of nights in the high mountains. Quickly Uzel built a fire to warm up the cold stone walls of the hut and then, as the hut finally heated up and they could allow the fire to die down a bit, Shem cooked dinner over the glowing embers and brewed a soothing tea for Daros as well.

Once everyone was relatively comfortable, the three Clan members turned their attention to Daros and began to reason with him. Zerah, with tears of compassion welling in her eyes, talked gently and softly to her friend. Not quite realizing how desperately agitated Daros' mind had become, she spoke pleasantly to him, hoping to cheer him up. "Daros," she gently murmured to her friend and lover, "remember the old days at Water Home? Remember the way the bay looked when the sunlight sparkled upon the water in the springtime? Remember the Shaman? We'll be going back there soon. Hold those images in your mind and don't let the Spaniards get you down. These dark times are just temporary."

As she talked, Zerah tried to persuade Daros to eat a bowl of hot grain cereal, hoping almost naively, because she could think of no other hopes, that getting something warm and nourishing inside him would somehow make him all better; as if he was merely sick with a cold or flu.

At first Daros only shrugged, pushed the bowl away and gave Zerah a hateful look. But then, as he continued to stare at her, his eyes narrowed and deepened, numbing her with a chilling gaze as deeply evil as any she had seen in the eyes of the cold-hearted Spanish killers. She attempted to spoon another bite of cereal into his mouth. "Don't touch me, bitch," he suddenly hissed at her, his voice and his eyes becoming as cold as ice. "Just keep your hands off me, whore." He then knocked the hot cereal out of Zerah's hand and, with snakelike swiftness, grabbed for her neck. Shem and Uzel instantly jumped in to restrain him but if they had not been there to protect her, Daros would have backed up his threats to Zerah with bone-breaking violence.

With a sad heart, Zerah asked Shem and Uzel to restrain Daros with ropes. Reluctantly they bound his wrists with rawhide thongs and then tied him to a ring they found embedded in the stone wall of the hut, but even after he was securely restrained Daros cursed and spat at them with all his strength. After an hour or so of listening to Daros' hateful invective, Zerah, Uzel and Shem also decided that a gag was necessary to control their friend.

Daily Zerah ministered to Daros and watched over him but, after several months of intensive care, Daros still showed no signs of improvement. He had to be either watched or tied to his bed twenty-four hours a day. Whenever she tried to free his wrists or remove his gag, he told lies, broke any object he could get his hands on or tried to steal anything that he couldn't break.

Daros' soul burned with a paranoia that ate at his guts and consumed his brain. He truly felt as if everyone was a deadly enemy, out to steal his soul; that the world and everything in it were plotting against him; that he must lie and steal and struggle at every single moment in order to protect his very life. Day after day, night after night, he barely slept as he waited to strike out at his legion of enemies before they could get to him first. Daros' mind had ventured into a war zone.

As the months wore on, Zerah, Shem and Uzel grew more and more desperate. They had never before been forced to deal with this kind of behavior and they felt that they were drowning in Daros' constant stream of hatefulness. Even when he was bound and gagged, Daros' malevolent eyes followed them everywhere, silently cursing them and wishing them dead.

The three of them, all meaning well and trying to do good, were totally ineffective and clearly in over their heads. They eventually decided to do what they would have done back home with the Clan. They decided to hold a council. With a minimum of ceremony and only a ritual fire and some sage burning to make the meeting feel more official, they began to discuss their choices regarding Daros.

"What would the Shaman do?" asked Shem.

"I remember when Thurr acted like this," replied Uzel. "The Shaman banished him. And frankly twenty years alone in the wilderness did him a lot of good."

Zerah nodded her head in agreement. "It's clear to me," she stated, "that we can't help Daros and he's obviously a danger to us here. I suggest we untie him and tell him to return home to the Shaman. I know it sounds heartless to just turn him out into the wilderness but at some point we have to think about ourselves as well. We've really tried to be helpful and to fill him with kindness and love. But it didn't work with the Spanish and it isn't working with him. And," Zerah softly continued, her sad eyes gazing down at the fire, "whatever this terrible Spanish disease is, I can feel myself catching it also. I feel myself reaching the outer limits of my resources. I feel like I also am slowly turning evil.

Uzel and Shem also nodded in agreement.

"It isn't doing us or him any good to keep him here," Zerah continued. "We're just becoming more like he is. And what good will it do if we keep up trying to nurse him back to health and he just ends up destroying us all?"

For several long moments, silence reigned around the sage-scented fire pit as each Clan member contemplated such a dismal end to all their hopes and dreams of a optimistic future for mankind. Then Uzel spoke the next question they all had been asking themselves. "Can Daros make it back to Water Home on his own?"

Zerah sighed and shook her head. "I just don't know."

Firelight cast dark shadows on the hut wall behind the three Clan members. Outside the hut, the cold night sky was filled with stars. Inside the hut, a man's life was being weighed. To the three Clan members, their friend Daros seemed to walk a very narrow line between madness and redemption. Was he redeemable? And if so what would save him? Would banishment save him? Could their current plan of forceful restraint save him or would it only drag Daros down and take the three others with him? Both choices were fraught with danger.

"The man is not physically ill," commented Shem. "But he burns inside his soul with some powerful, irrational, uncontrollable hatred. And this makes him dangerous, even more dangerous than the Spaniards. I say that Zerah is right. We have no other choice but banishment."

"But would he go back to the Shaman? Or would he just go on a rampage wherever circumstances led him?" asked Uzel.

"I think that he would go back," replied Zerah, "and I'll tell you why I think that. This is not some maddened animal we are discussing here. This is Daros, my consort and Clan brother. I am willing to gamble that beneath the veil of madness that now covers his heart, there still exists the spirit of my sacred blood brother. It is a human heart that beats in his breast, not the heart of some maddened animal. We all knew and loved Daros once. It is in this treasure of love that we must put our trust."

The two men listened to Zerah's words and believed them. The next morning Daros was released, given supplies, and sent back home.

Zerah, Shem and Uzel remained in South America for several more years, witnessing murder after murder after murder. Finally, when it seemed to them that there was almost no one left on the continent left to be killed, they also gratefully began the long journey homeward. Then after five years of hard traveling they finally reached their beloved Clan's mountain stronghold.

When they finally staggered up the winding path to the Clan's cave, the three ragged voyagers felt intense joy. But when a happy and healthy Daros ran out to meet them, their joy reached a bottomless, boundless depth.