Sections on today's Signs Page:
Editorial: Surprise Surprise! 'al-Zarqawi' Comes Out Of The Closet
Signs of the Times
The problem, you understand, is that George's approval rating is at an all-time low (32%), a large majority of Americans believe that he should be impeached, and the world's population is slowly waking up to the distinct possibility that the 'war on terror' is, to one extent or another, a creation of the very people that claim to be fighting it. In such situations, short of calling down
another 'terror attack', there is really only one option for the U.S. government:
the lie, over and over again.
The attempted re-programming of the masses began three days
ago with 'Osama' making it clear in a audio recording that
he was still in the game.
This was quickly followed up with 'proof' of this in the form of
attack' in Egypt.
Finally, yesterday, 'al-Zarqawi' came out of the closet and decided to finally
put a face to the myth. I have already dealt with Osama and
Egypt, which just leaves us with 'ol Abu Musab. Is he a creation
of Western intelligence agencies? as many claim? Is he even
still alive? Will yesterday's video put an end to speculation?
Like the Osama
recording of three days ago, American intelligence sources were "not immediately
able to confirm the authenticity” of
the al-Zarqawi video. But rather than wait on the CIA, let's conduct our own
brief but effective analysis.
Consider the three images below. The images on the left and in the center
are archive photos of al-Zarqawi, the one on the right is from yesterday's
Same guy? Consider close ups of the lips of the men in the three images.
Notice anything? Note the thin and long bottom lip in the left and middle
images and the thick and short bottom lip in the video image on the right.
Can the shape of a person's mouth and lips change in the period of a few years?
Absent any informed medical opinion that such a facial transformation
can occur, we must conclude that the man in yesterday's image is not ' al-Zarqawi',
and that the publication of this video is more evidence of staged U.S.
and/or Israeli government psyops designed to craft the 'reality' of "Islamic
terrorism" in the minds of Western populations. It is up to you to decide if
you want to be brainwashed or not.
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Editorial: What President Ahmadinejad Actually Said About Israel and Iran's Nuclear Program
Tehran, April 14, IRNA
President of the Islamic Revolution, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The following is the full text of the President of the Islamic Revolution, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's address at the opening session of the Third International Qods (Jerusalem) Conference supporting the rights of the Palestinian people. This text has been portrayed in the Western press as calling for the "wiping off" of Israel from the face of the earth. Read it and make up your own minds if that is what he said.
Read it for yourselves and see if his words were accurately reported, and then think about everything else you read and hear in the Western media.
In the Name of God, the Almighty
Dear Scholars and Thinkers;
Honorable Speakers and Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the people and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran I would like to welcome you and also express my own thanks and appreciation for your presence at this conference. I hope your blessed and fruitful presence in this conference will take pressure off and lighten hardship and the inconvenience of your journey from countries far and near.
Fortunately, the timing of the conference concurs and falls together with the anniversary birth of our great prophet. This augurs well and is a very auspicious concurrence.
Prophet of Islam is the messenger of compassion, mercy, justice and human dignity. He is source and center of unity for believers in God and all Muslims. Our prophet is the harbinger of peace and global harmony on the basis of oneness of God and justice. Our beloved prophet wants the good of the entire humanity, is the pinnacle of human perfection and inheritor of the goodness of all divine prophets.
I wish to seize this opportunity to offer my sincerest felicitations on the occasion of the anniversary of this auspicious birth to the honorable participants in this meeting, to all Muslims and to the entire humanity.
Excellencies, Dear Sisters and Brothers
The question of Palestine has been the foremost preoccupation of the people of the region and Muslim ummah for the past sixty years.
This is a wound that has been inflicted by the Zionist occupiers upon the nations of the region, Muslims and especially the Palestinian people. This is an agonizing and heart-rending pain that will not disappear easily.
At this time, I would like to mention some of the costs to our region because of the imposition of this regime:
The existence of the Zionist regime is tantamount to imposition of an unending and unrestrained threat so that none of the nations and Islamic countries of the region and beyond can feel secure from its threat. The closer these nations are to the epicenter of this threat, the more threatened they feel. The people of Palestine are at the very core of such a threat. They have not been able to spend a day with peace of mind for the past sixty years. Three generations of sons and daughters of Palestinians have lived and are presently living under these circumstances. The peoples of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the entire Middle East are essentially under similar situation.
Wastage of Immense Resources of the Region and the Muslim Ummah As a result of the presence of the usurp Zionist regime in the region, enormous wealth and assets of the Islamic countries of the region are spent for maintaining defensive strength, and at times for actual defense. In addition, an important part of the human resources, which are the principle assets of any nation, is expended for the same purpose.
Insult to Dignity of the Faithful and Believers
The existence of the Zionist regime is a threat to the dignity of the Muslim ummah, the believers and the faithful. In accordance with the noble verse from the Holy Koran, the domination of such a regime over the Muslim ummah that reside in the occupied territories and the region is contrary to the consent of the Almighty.
By its unending killings, destruction of homes and farms, encroaching upon sacred places, mosques and churches, unrelenting assaults on residential and non-residential places and targeted assassinations, this regime not only humiliates and disgraces Palestinian people, but also tramples upon the pride and dignity of all Muslims and freedom-loving people of the world.
How long can this situation last and be tolerated? When Imam Ali, Commander of the Faithful, heard that an anklet was forcefully removed from the the feet of a Jewish woman by the invaders in one of the frontier cities under his rule, he said, "If a man dies from grief because of this act, he should not be reprimanded."
Today, even the children are not spared and are targeted by their bullets.
Palestinian men and women are abducted and tortured in their fearsome prisons.
People are shot dead in schools, on the streets and at markets.
Does this situation and scenes of atrocity befit the dignity and pride of humanity?
SOWING SEEDS OF DISUNITY IN THE ISLAMIC WORLD AND AMONG NATIONS OF THE REGION
The foundation of the continued existence of this usurper regime is on sowing disunity among the nations and governments of the region.
By their insidious interferences and by creating an atmosphere of mistrust and resentment, they separate and divide countries and governments of region.
Under this atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust they are able to establish covert liaison, impose costly military and economic and enforce the disgraceful political arrangements of the domineering powers on nations and governments of the region.
The Zionist regime is the focal and meeting point for bullying powers and adversaries of the Muslim ummah.
Our enemies and ill-wishers are putting pressures on countries, nations of the region and Muslim ummah by strengthening and supporting this threat and despite all their deep differences they become united when the time comes to encounter this region.
In fact, it is through Qods occupying regime that the domineering powers tend to impose their wishes on the Muslim nations.
This regime acts as a proxy and assumes the responsibility on behalf of bullying powers for acts of terror, creating disunity and division and sabotaging political, economic and cultural relations between the countries of the region and with other nations of the world.
PREVENTING THE PROGRESS AND ADVANCEMENT OF ISLAMIC COUNTRIES
The bullying powers use different excuses to prevent transfer of science and technology and progress of the nations of our region.
They regard our advancement as a threat to the corrupt Zionist regime. They do not allow the countries of the region to tread on the path to progress and advancement.
They even oppose indigenous technologies in the Islamic countries and interpret any scientific advancement as a threat to the security of Qods occupier regime.
You can see how they treat our nation that has been able to have access to nuclear technology by relying on the innovations and creative minds of its own scientists.
Nuclear technology is one of the primary foundations for progress and serving the people, and in not too distant future, nations without this technology will have no choice but to resort to it in order to meet their growing energy needs and to use it for other scientific and economic purposes.
OFFENDING SANCTITIES AND DESTRUCTION OF CULTURAL HERITAGE
Offending the sanctity of al Aqsa mosque and demographic and physical alterations of Qods and al Aqsa mosque that are respected by all followers of divine monotheistic religions are the consequences of the Zionist occupation which has damaged these institutions and monotheism and precious heritage of humanity.
HOMELESSNESS OF INNOCENT PALESTINIANS
The homelessness of millions of Palestinian refugees and their forces displacement from their fatherland is a pain and brutality that cannot be explained in words.
EXCELLENCIES, DISTINGUISHED PARLIAMENTARIANS AND DEAR SISTERS AND BROTHERS
What I just briefly referred to are some of the dire consequences of the continued existence of this fictitious regime.
The question is: What is the philosophy and reasoning behind establishment and imposition of such a regime by certain Western powers?
Some Western powers admit that they have killed a large part of Jewish population in Europe and founded the occupied regime in order to put right the wrong they had committed.
With deference to all nations and followers of divine religions, we are asking if this atrocity is true, then why the people of the region should pay for it by occupation of Palestinian lands and unending suppression of Palestinian people, by homelessness of millions of Palestinians, by destruction of their cities and rural areas and agricultural lands.
Why should they pay by fire, bullets and imposition of forces? And why should they pay by tolerating occupation of Islamic lands? Are the consequences of the establishment of this regime less than the Holocaust you are claiming?
If there are doubts regarding the Holocaust, there is really no doubt regarding Palestinian disaster and Holocaust. The Holocaust in Palestine has persisted for more than sixty years.
EXCELLENCIES, DEAR SISTERS AND BROTHERS
The bitter truth is that the vast Zionist network has been at the service of the bullying powers for decades.
The Zionist regime is serving these powers to expand their domination and supremacy, and some weaker Western nations have succumbed to the pressures of the Zionists.
Today, it is not only the Palestinians the Islamic world that are affected by the Zionist threats, but also a large part of economic and political interests of the people in the West are also hostage by the Zionists.
I regret to say that governments under the influence of the Zionists in some European countries are making key positions and posts, financial, industrial and agricultural resources available to them for the sake of consolidating the pillars of their power.
They are prepared to sacrifice the freedom, dignity and honor of their citizens under the feet of the Zionists.
There is much to say regarding this matter that I will hopefully share with European people in due time.
The question of Palestine is not solely a question for the Muslim world. Today, the entire world is affected by it.
The tragedy of occupation in Palestine and daily atrocities has harmed the dignity and honor of humanity.
How can any free-minded people condone what is happening in the occupied territories? There have been many Palestinian people that have passed away yearning for return to their homes.
And there are many Palestinian children who are living with the dream of returning to Palestine.
What should be done? And how should we move forward?
"Excellencies, Distinguished Sisters and Brothers
"Peace and harmonious relations can only be based on towhid, human dignity and justice. Oppressions and aggressions are not compatible with human dignity and justice. The Zionist regime is a clear example of oppression and its fundamental nature represents actual and permanent threat. The very purpose behind the establishment of this regime was to put in place a permanent threat in the region. Therefore, the continued existence of this regime is premised on the persistence of this threat. It will have no existence without threat and aggression and it is not inherently capable to survive in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. Even if it manages to remain in one square meter of the Palestinian land, it will continue to be a threat to the region.
"Take a good look at the bullying powers of the world. When it comes to supporting the Zionist regime, they recognize no red line and boundaries for justice, human rights and human dignity. The usurper Zionist regime is the meeting point of the injustices and brutalities of the corrupt bullying powers.
"Only a government chosen by the people can resolve the problem of Palestine and the people of the region. The right to govern belongs to all people of Palestine and they must decide the governing model of their choice and elect their own officials.
"For this purpose, there must be an opportunity for all genuine Palestinians; be they Muslims, Christians, or Jews, residing in Palestine or in Diaspora, to participate in a referendum to decide the political system of their choice and elect their leaders.
"In other words, the only rational way which is compatible with the generally recognized international norms is holding of a referendum for all genuine Palestinians.
"The supporters of the Zionist regime prefer to remain silent in face of this reasonable proposition. But I tell them that regardless of what they desire, the Zionist regime is falling apart.
"The young tree of resistance in Palestine is blooming and blooms of faith and desire for freedom are flowering.
"The Zionist regime is a decaying and crumbling tree that will fall with a storm. Today even the inhabitants of the occupied Palestine, especially the African and Asian settlers are living in poverty and discontent.
"I tell the governments supporting the Zionist regime to open the doors to the prisons in the occupied Palestine and allow the refugees and displaced Palestinians to return to their homeland and summon the usurpers of the Palestinian lands.
"If you still consider yourself indebted to them, then find a proper place for them in your own territories, if not call upon them to return to their countries of origin to live like their
"Ladies and Gentlemen
"Today we are all accountable in facing the question of Palestine. The enemies of humanity are trying hard to keep this nest of intrigue. They are using the resources and the wealth of their people to keep this regime in power at the expense of the poverty and destitution of their people.
"With the grace of the Almighty, nations of the world-- especially the Muslim nations,-- are awake and are the greatest supports of the Palestinian people in the struggle against the Zionist usurpers.
"Islamic governments can solve the problem of Palestine by their unity and solidarity. The parliaments of countries can play an important role in awakening and forging unity among nations and by placing the question of Palestine in their permanent agenda.
"The question of Palestine is the present and lasting concern of not only Muslims, but the entire humanity.
"Palestine is the meeting point of right and wrong. Freedom for Palestine is the present aspiration of humanity. We must believe that good will prevail and evil will disappear. We must believe that Palestine will be free soon.
"A regime based on injustice and threat cannot survive. Today all conditions for the freedom of Palestine are on hand and available. Vigilance, unity and resistance are the keys to victory.
The destiny of the region will be decided in the land of Al-Qods and it will be a great honour to share in the victory of Palestine.
"I pray to the Almighty for the power and strength of the Muslim Ummah and the victory of Palestinian people.
"Once again I offer my congratulations on the auspicious birth of our dear prophet and thank the organizers of this conference. I thank all the dear guests and brothers and sisters and hope the results of this conference will be a long step forward in realizing the noble Palestinian cause."
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Editorial: Of Propaganda and Disinformation in Politics
April 25, 2006
by Rodrigue Tremblay
Propaganda is defined as a specific type of message presentation, directly aimed at influencing the opinions of people, rather than impartially providing information. It is a branch of the public relations industry. Political propaganda, on the other hand, is the art of conscious and intelligent manipulation of the attitudes and behavior of the electorate in order to control the democratic process.
Why is political propaganda so dangerously effective? Essentially, it is because most people pay scant attention to public affairs, being totally absorbed in their own daily struggles. Not having the time and the motivation to get informed on their own, they are easy prey to those who have a direct interest in propagating particular ideologies, points of views and particular interpretations of reality. More specifically, those controlling propaganda machines-politicians and their backers in the main media-are in a position to impose their agendas and advance policies that serve their special interests. In the age of electronic media, those who control the levers of information or disinformation control the political process. And, in this day and age, those are the ones with the most money.
In totalitarian states where the levers of power are in the hands of a state bureaucracy, politicians and bureaucrats control and impose censorship over the media. In countries where private wealth and incomes are highly concentrated, those who own the media set the tone and are in a position to dominate the public discourse, impose their political agenda and influence the population at election time.
One who knew something about political propaganda, Chancellor Adolf Hitler of Germany, summed up its enormous power, when he said: "Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way round, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise." In other words, clever propaganda, when unchecked by critical analysis and unconfronted with reality, can persuade a people of practically anything, whether what is advanced is true or not. In fact, for devious-minded politicians (and this applies to their co-conspirators in the media), truth and facts are no obstacles to their methods for gaining power and to their ways of advancing their interests.
In the United States, in particular, political propaganda took a turn for the worse about 20 years ago, when rich far right groups took over the control of most of the main media, thanks to self-serving so-called deregulations that served their special interests well. One of the leaders in the concerted move to monopolize the media for conservative political purposes is Richard A.Viguerie, who wrote a whole book explaining how this was done. Viguerie is the 1960's and 1970's propagandist pioneer of ideological and political direct mail. He and his co-author David Franke show how American conservative political groups capitalized upon alternative media (direct mail, talk radio, cable news TV, and the Internet) to spread their message, win elections and gain political power.
A classic reference on political propaganda is Serge Chakotin's Rape of the Masses, on the techniques of mass political propaganda and the theory of conditioned reflexes. According to Chakotin, those who intend to impose a political ideology need not speak to people's minds, but rather tap upon the primary collective subconscious of the masses, which invests the history and the founding myths of a country. In that way, "people can be forced to act in ways predetermined without their knowledge," unaware that they are the victim of a systematic manipulation. -There lies the strength of political propaganda; people are conditioned through propaganda to think and act according to the preset agenda of the manipulators. It is a fact that, even in well established democracies, many prefer to be lied to and made comfortable in their own mind, than to be told the truth and made uncomfortable. In reality, some people literally enjoy being lied to, if the lies fit their predetermined ideas and interests.
Recent history illustrates brillantly the force behind political propaganda, as reported in James Bovard's recent book "Attention Deficit Democracy". Polls indicated that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, only 3 percent of Americans thought that Iraq or Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the attacks. This is understandable since Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network took responsability for the attacks and the terrorists came from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, none from Iraq. However, after the Bush-Cheney administration started making a direct link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, and the media echoed their message, the percentage of Americans who believed Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the attacks jumped to 72 percent by February 2003. The fact that this was an outright lie did not matter: the propaganda results were real and Bush Jr. could proceed with his war of aggression against Iraq while claiming public support.
It has been established, indeed, and reported in the Los Angeles Times, that ten days after 9/11, "President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing [President's C.I.A. Daily Brief] that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda." On the contrary, the government of Saddam Hussein actually attempted to monitor and infiltrate the Islamic terrorist groups, which it regarded as adversaries of its secular regime.
This information had been delivered not only to the president, but also to the vice president and other top Bush administration officials. Nonetheless President George W. Bush and his Vice President Dick Cheney repeatedly made implicit (and at times specific) links between Saddam and Al Qaeda until many Americans started to believe that the 9/11 attacks had been carried out by Iraqis.
This type of propaganda actually began as early as 1998, when a group of influent Neocons sent a letter to President Bill Clinton, on January 26, 1998, enumerating the reasons for launching a war against Iraq. They said that the American "strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power."...and that his removal was absolutely necessary for "the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world's supply of oil." There you have the real reasons for the war against Iraq: oil, Israel and American military bases in the Middle East region, seasoned with crass domestic electoral considerations. The 'weapons of mass destruction' pretext was only a cover for this concealed agenda for an unprovoked aggression. -People who pretend that they still do not know why the Bush administration attacked Iraq have just not done their homework.
In a democracy, political propaganda and the practice of official obfuscation and disinformation are not without consequences. When a country has a citizenry which has been deceived and cannot do its own thinking, people cannot vote intelligently or make their views known efficiently; this opens the door to the tyranny and oppression of the majority by a minority.
In the past, great leaders have spoken against the ravage of propaganda. For example,General Douglas MacArthur, issued warning in his famous 'Old Soldiers Never Die' speech on May 15, 1951: "It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificually induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear." Maybe people of this stature should speak out more often, whenever the propaganda of fear is being used again for narrow political purposes.
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Editorial: Have a Koch and a Smile
Free Markets and Property Rights Trump Humanity and the Environment!
So long as the markets are free and the rich stay that way, human suffering and environmental devastation are irrelevant. Beneath the “feel good” facade of baseball, apple-pie, mom, and Chevrolet lurks this sinister reality of the American Way.
Much of humanity is shackled by poverty and besieged by the violence of war. Earth is experiencing a slow, agonizing death. Animal and plant species are disappearing at an alarming rate. Despite these tragic and inevitable consequences, the United States persists in spreading the cancers of Americanized Capitalism and Democracy.
Here's to Saint Charles
America’s wealthiest owe a significant debt of gratitude to their patron saint, Charles G. Koch. Mr. Koch’s Herculean efforts have virtually ensured that the United States’ plutocracy and its complimentary corporatocracy will continue their reign in America’s highly dysfunctional democracy. Blessed with a significant number of Americans still rendered somnambulant by a mass media machine, Koch and his fellow patricians are riding high.
Mr. Koch has virtually endless resources at his disposal to keep “his people” in power. Charles owns 40% of the shares of the largest privately held company in the world. Koch Enterprises generated revenues of $40 billion in 2004. Koch recently acquired gargantuan lumber and paper producer Georgia Pacific, which significantly expands his empire of oil, pipeline, fiber, and chemical enterprises. By shunning public sale of Koch Enterprise stock, Charles Koch has maintained a tight-fisted grip on his company while cloaking its finances behind a veil of secrecy.
It's in their blue blood
Causes enhancing the power of America’s Capitalist elites are a Koch clan obsession. They live to pursue lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy, shifting the burden of subsidizing America’s burgeoning military, oil, pharma, and prison industrial complexes to the middle class and poor.
As they press to defang consumer, labor and environmental protection laws to shelter corporations from liability and increase their profit-making capacity, the Koch family vigorously toils to enhance corporate power.
Consider that Fred Koch, Charles’s father, was a charter member of the John Birch Society, which pushed for the repeal of income taxes and civil rights legislation. Practicing a racist agenda on behalf of the White wealthy elite, the JBS was formed on the pretext of fighting Communism. Fred’s interest in the JBS allegedly stemmed from having witnessed the Purges under Stalin in the 1930’s. Despite his concern for Stalin’s victims, Fred still remained in Russia to make money by upgrading Communist oil refineries. A true Capitalist.
Happiness is not for sale, but in America, power and influence are
David Koch, Charles’ brother, founded the Cato Institute in 1977 and was a presidential candidate in 1980 as a Libertarian. Charles, David and Cato are no friends to America’s working class or minorities. Staunch supporters of social security privatization and property rights, Cato strongly opposes affirmative action and government regulation. With such an obviously biased agenda, it is rather curious that the “liberal” mainstream media often cites Cato as a neutral source.
In 1996, the Cato Institute itself wrote:
"Dozens of huge corporations, eager to roll back government regulatory powers, are among Cato's largest donors."
With the backing of one of the wealthiest families in America, Koch Family Foundations provides funding to several think tanks similar to Cato, each of which “nobly” crusades for the rights of the “oppressed” upper class and fights for the freedom of corporate America.
According to the Nation (in a 1996 article documenting Bob Dole’s incestuous relationship with the Koch group) the reverse Robin Hoods from Wichita, Kansas have "lavished tens of millions of dollars in the past decade on 'free market' advocacy institutions in and around Washington."
In 2004, Koch Industries made $587,000 in campaign donations, more than any other oil company. From 1998 to 2004 the Koch family and its enterprises gave $3.9 million in political contributions. Compare that to the $3.8 million contributed by Exxon Mobile, which is six times the size of Koch. During that same period, the Koch boys spent $2.4 million lobbying Congress to pass “humanitarian” legislation that would repeal the estate tax and significantly reduce the capacity of consumers to sue.
Particularly noteworthy is the fact that 79% of Koch’s campaign funding in 2004 went to Republicans, including $121,000 to Todd Tiahrt, the US Congressman representing Wichita (where Koch Enterprises is head-quartered); $109,000 to George Bush; and $53,000 to the Hammer, Tom DeLay. Evidently Charles and David forgot that one is often judged by the company one keeps. Or perhaps they simply don’t care.
For people with such a professed aversion to government, it seems a bit odd that Charles Koch and kin would part with their beloved greenbacks so readily to participate in political activities. Slicing through their rhetoric, it appears they are far more interested in manipulating the United States government than in minimizing it.
In 1996, Triad Management, a shell corporation with little purpose or substance, began influencing federal elections by airing attack ads. Since Triad did not publicly disclose the source of its funding, wealthy individuals could exceed legal limits on campaign contributions by donating to Triad. In essence, Triad was a vehicle for laundering money.
One of its chief beneficiaries was Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, who defeated Jill Docking in the 1996 Senatorial race with a Triad-financed anti-Semitic ad campaign. Evidence indicates that Koch was Brownback’s primary financier, through Triad of course. In exchange, Brownback has represented Koch interests so well that he has earned a 100% rating from the Cato Institute.
Of major theft, environmental crime, and wrongful death
In their relentless pursuit of the sacred tenets of free markets and deregulation, the Koch brothers and their multi-tentacled corporate entities have committed several egregiously immoral and criminal acts. Fortunately for Charles and David, the Gods of Capitalism have smiled upon them. Leaving carcinogenic pollutants and death in its wake, Koch Enterprises has emerged relatively unscathed.
In 2000, Bill Koch, another of Fred’s sons, appeared on 60 Minutes II and characterized Koch Enterprises like this:
"It was – was my family company. I was out of it," he says. "But that’s what appalled me so much... I did not want my family, my legacy, my father’s legacy to be based upon organized crime."
When he made that statement, Bill Koch had already parted ways with his brothers and filed a federal lawsuit alleging that much of Koch Industry’s oil profit was derived from theft and fraud. In December of 1999 a jury decided that Koch stole oil 24,000 times by “adjusting” the volume they had collected. Koch’s own records showed that their “adjustments for errors” translated into at least 300 million gallons of oil in their favor. Koch Industries eventually settled the suit for $25 million.
Koch Industries has the largest network of gas and oil pipelines in the United States. Quite an achievement. Unfortunately, Koch chose increased profits over the environment. In 2000, it paid $30 million for violating federal environmental laws. Koch had caused over 300 oil spills in seven states because it didn’t maintain its pipelines properly.
In 1996, Danielle Smalley and Jason Stone died tragically before they reached their twentieth birthdays. These Texas teens were in the vicinity of a Koch high-pressure gas line that was leaking when it suddenly exploded. Danielle and Jason were incinerated, their bodies burned beyond recognition. Danielle’s family won a $296 million wrongful death judgment as a result of Koch’s criminal negligence. Koch eventually paid the Smalleys an undisclosed settlement.
Does Bill Koch think about the charred remains of Danielle and Jason when he writes checks to Cato and its ilk?
Bill Koch again captured the essence of Koch when he commented:
"Koch Industries has a philosophy that profits are above everything else."
As the 2000 election approached, the Koch brothers’ political contributions proved to be money very well spent. It seems that the Koch conglomerate had dumped 91 metric tons of benzene, a cancer-causing agent, near its refinery in Corpus Christi. They added insult to injury by attempting to conceal their crime. Facing a 97 count indictment, possible prison time for company executives, and potential fines of $352 million, Charles and David needed a “white knight” to ride to their rescue.
Enter George Bush, who “won” the election with the aid of $800,000 worth of Koch donations. Striking a blow for the free market, Attorney General Ashcroft dropped almost all of the charges. Koch Industries pled guilty to falsifying documents and paid a settlement of a mere $20 million. No one served jail time.
Putting outsiders in and bringing insiders out
To ensure the continued success of their malignant influence on the United States government, in 2005 Koch hired a “Beltway insider”. Matt Schlapp became their director of Washington lobbying. Schlapp had been working in the White House’s Office of Political Affairs.
Disturbingly, Elizabeth Stolpe, a former Koch lobbyist, now holds a significant position on the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Another former Koch employee, Alex Beehler (who reported to David Koch), exerts influence on federal environmental policy from his position with Environment, Safety and Occupational Health.
Charles Koch has covered his political bets going both ways. Very impressive, in a Machiavellian way.
A criminal by any other name...
Charles Koch also gets an “A” for somehow manufacturing a respectable public image. On 3/13/06 Forbes ran a story about Koch entitled “Mr. Big”. Much to the discredit of the publication, Forbes writer Daniel Fisher focused almost exclusively on the buyout of Georgia Pacific and the “Capitalistic virtues” of Charles Koch, a man who belongs in prison.
Charles Koch is indeed an “American success story” by the measure of those who still believe in the real American Way, which is the suffering of the many for the pleasure of the few.
For those who know the American Dream is a nightmare, Charles Koch puts a human face on the ruthlessness of Capitalism as it is practiced in the United States. Born into America’s de facto aristocracy, Koch is one of the privileged top 1% of Americans who hold a significant portion of the world’s wealth.
While the poor and working class of the world bleed, sweat, cry, and die to keep the money flowing from the spigot for such men, Koch, his friends, and his progeny reside comfortably in their secure castles and counting houses.
No wonder Mr. Big smiled so brightly for the Forbes photo.
Jason Miller is a 39 year old sociopolitical essayist with a degree in liberal arts and an extensive self-education (derived from an insatiable appetite for reading). He is a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter of Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at firstname.lastname@example.org or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.
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Editorial: Murder and Plunder Mean Honors for Armitage
April 25, 2006
Richard Armitage: First in war, first in subversion, first in the hearts of
someone else's countrymen.
For his outstanding service in leading America and Britain into an illegal
war of aggression that has murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people
in Iraq, as well as his heroic role in running guns and money to the dope-dealing
terrorist bands that sought to overthrow the legitimate government of Nicaragua,
Richard Armitage has been secretly knighted by Queen Elizabeth Deuce, as the
Guardian reports today:
"Honoured with a KCMG [Knight Commander of St. Michael
and St. George, second highest rank of British knighthood] is Richard Armitage,
deputy secretary of state under Colin Powell between 2001 and 2005 and a
leading player in rallying diplomatic support for the Iraq invasion. Mr Armitage's
role in the Iran-contra arms smuggling scandal was controversial enough to
prevent him becoming army secretary in 1989. He worked alongside Oliver North
to trade arms to Iran illegally and siphon profits to the Nicaraguan contra
"[Armitage] is one of 100 non-UK citizens honoured since last May who
are named in a list released by the Foreign Office after a parliamentary
question from the Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker. Unlike honours to UK
citizens, those for foreigners are not generally announced..."
If Armitage gets this kind of gilded wheeze for mere minioning in some of
the most murderous operations of the past half-century, then great googily-moogily,
what's George W. going to get, when he retires, for actually being the trigger-man
for the world-convulsing killing spree in Iraq? Not to mention his relentless
and ruthless gutting of the U.S. Constitution? What honor would suffice for
this sterling service? No mere knighthood or baronage will do; Lizzie will
have to adopt him into the royal family or something, name him heir to the
After all, his whole life's work has been aimed at overthrowing the American
Revolution and restoring feudal rule by aristocrats, warlords, religious cranks
and simpering courtiers. Why not just bring the whole thing full circle back
to Buckingham Palace?
|Richard Armitage, seen here on a visit to Iraq symbolically sucking the
lifeblood out of Iraqi society.
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Iran's Nukes - The Big Lie
The Confusion of Tongues
April 25, 2006
Yesterday morning I was watching a streaming English-language
news broadcast from Russia.
(And I expect that's enough cause right there for the telecommunication giants
to seek the end
of the Internet as we know it.) The lead story was the press conference of
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the main points hit by the Russia
Today correspondent were Ahmadinejad's renouncing nuclear weapons as contrary
to Islam and his reiteration of Iran's 30-year commitment to the Non-Proliferation
Treaty, though Iran reserved the right to revisit its commitment if adherence
to the treaty imperiled its sovereignty.
It was an unexpectedly optimistic piece. Ahmadinejad was allowed to speak at
length and appeared relaxed and informed while fielding questions. If the excerpts
were representative and the translation accurate, he appeared to be credibly
attempting to defuse the crisis.
Naturally we need to compensate for spin whatever the source, and Russian news
tailored for a foreign audience has a spin no less than Wolf Blitzer's Panic
Room. Knowing that, I was still taken aback by the absolute unfamiliarity of
the same press conference when soon after I started reading accounts of it in
the Western media. The accent was almost entirely upon provocation, not concilation:
the UN "lacks
guts" to impose sanctions; "Defiant Iran in threat to
quit nuclear treaty"; and "Iranian President insists 'Israel
can not continue to live.'"
There's a Central Casting-like quality to Ahmadinejad's villainy. If he didn't
exist the Pentagon would have had to create him to justify moving the goalpost
to Tehren. And perhaps they did. (The election fraud, rule by crisis and religious
fascism are certainly familiar enough. A reformist Iranian government was the
war party's nightmare.) But did he really say that? Did he insist that Israel
must die? The headline is drawn from this quote, provided without context: "We
say that this fake regime cannot logically continue to live." To arrive
at the headline, the government has to be conflated with the nation. Likewise
we could say about the Bush administration, and with considerable accuracy, that "this
fake regime cannot logically continue to survive." (Without knowing Farsi
I'll presume that the original could be translated as either "to live" or "to
survive.") And is that the same as saying America must die?
Ahmadinejad says the darnedest things, but perhaps, when translated, his rhetoric
to overinflation by parties interested in conflict.
But perhaps it doesn't matter. Does it matter that we've barely learned how to
pronounce his name before he's become This Year's Hitler? It doesn't matter what
anyone says at this suddenly late stage, past the fail safe point of arrested
anticipation. Iran and the United States do not see the need to talk to each
other, and the go-between media appears only to egg them on like a pack of jumpy
kids itching for the stimulus of a good after-school fight. (How's June sound?)
All things being equal, a chorus of just one wise word, something like "Enough," should
be sufficient now to deter the Bush regime which, judging by the politics alone,
ought to be the most vulnerable since Nixon's circa 1974. But nothing's equal
anymore, and American politics is putting on an ever-more piss-poor pantomime
of representative government. The old vocabularies have expired. Throw their
lexicons on the Lexus, and burn the Lexus. We need to learn a new language before
we can speak this truth to that power.
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War Pimp Alert: Iran 'greatest threat to Jews'
Monday April 24, 2006
The Israeli defence minister today said Iran's nuclear programme was the biggest threat to Jews "since Hitler".
Speaking before comments from the Iranian president that Israel could not "logically continue to live", Shaul Mofaz urged vigorous diplomatic action over Iran's uranium enrichment activities, which Tehran maintains are purely peaceful.
"Of all the threats we face, Iran is the biggest. The world must not wait. It must do everything necessary on a diplomatic level in order to stop its nuclear activity," Reuters reported Mr Mofaz telling a conference on Iran at Tel Aviv University.
He added: "Since Hitler we have not faced such a threat".
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, later called on Israeli Jews to leave the Middle East and "return to their fatherlands" in Europe.
"We say that this fake regime [Israel] cannot ... logically continue to live," he told a press conference, according to an Associated Press translation.
"Open the doors [of Europe] and let the Jews go back to their own countries," he told reporters.
Mr Ahmadinejad also suggested that Iran could pull out of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty if sanctions were imposed. The UN security council has given Iran until April 28 to suspend uranium enrichment, which it this month claimed to have mastered.
"Working in the framework of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the agency is our concrete policy," he said. "[But] if we see that they are violating our rights, or they don't want to accept [our rights], well, we will reconsider."
"What has more than 30 years of membership in the agency given us?"
The treaty permits a signatory nation to enrich uranium in order to generate electricity, but the US and EU have pressed Iran to obtain its nuclear fuel from elsewhere after a clandestine enrichment programme was uncovered in 2002.
Mr Ahmadinejad said he did not believe the security council would impose sanctions. "Those who speak about sanctions would be damaged more [than Iran]," he told the press conference. "But no particular event will happen, don't worry."
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US will go for other states after Iran and Iraq, says Margolis
Monday, April 24, 2006
Daily Times Monitor
Well-known journalist calls Bush's statements on Iran's N-programme 'ridiculous and nonsense'
LAHORE: Renowned American journalist Eric Margolis has said that the US will "go for" Pakistan and Saudi Arabia after Iraq and Iran.
"We have leaks from reliable sources that after Iraq and Iran, the US plans to go for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia," Margolis said in an interview with IWT NEWS on Saturday. Margolis supported Iran's nuclear weapons programme, saying that it poses no threat to the world community. US President George W Bush's statements on Iran's nuclear programme were "ridiculous and nonsense", he said. "Iran has no nuclear bombs and no capability to bomb a country with these weapons," Margolis said.
He said that Iran's longest-range missile, Shahab-III, had a maximum range of 1,200-1,500 kilometres, which meant that Iran could not attack North America or Western Europe. "No substantial evidence has yet been found that Iran has nuclear weapons, and anyone saying that Iran is a threat to the world is lying and deceiving the world," Margolis said. He said that Bush's statement about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction had "proved baseless". The US and Israel were planning to attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure and major military installations, he said.
Margolis said that Iran had been trying to acquire nuclear weapons since 1970, when it signed an agreement with Israel to provide it with nuclear warheads and medium range missiles. He said that Pakistani intelligence sources had told him that decades ago, Iran had offered to pay for Pakistan's entire defence budget for 10 years in exchange for nuclear technology. "Why shouldn't Iran have nuclear weapons? It is surrounded by nuclear powers like Pakistan, Russia, Israel and India," Margolis said. He said that the US was providing India with nuclear secrets and the latest nuclear technology in spite of the fact that the latter had not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. He said that India is developing submarine-launched missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, and Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles with a range of 7,000 miles. "With these weapons, India can strike even the US, but the Bush administration is still providing India with modern nuclear technology," he said. He said that the US had supplied Israel with bomber airplanes, which could travel to Iran and even Pakistan. It had also given Israel around 500 "penetrating bombs, which are very lethal".
He said that a US or Israeli attack on Iran could be "very dangerous", as Iran had the ability to "punish American forces in Iraq". He said that the present Iraqi government was a Shia government which is very close to Iran. "So an attack on Iran can outrage the Shia community of Iraq," he said. Margolis said that Iran had the ability to launch "commando attacks" on US forces in the gulf. "Iran can attack US bases in Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar. Iran can hamper oil exports from the area, which will create a major panic in the world and in the US," he said.
"Iranians are prepared to take huge casualties (to defend themselves) because they are a dedicated and nationalistic nation, whereas the US lacks this advantage," Margolis said, adding that Iran can even send troops to Iraq.
Comment: But you see, it's all about finding Osama bin Laden who attacked us on 9/11...remember? And if that means that we have to invade and occupy every country in the world, then so be it. But just remember, we are looking for Bin Laden...once we find him, we will dismantle all military installations and go back home. Ok? You believe us, don't you? I mean, in the fight against terror, it's logical to send 150,000 American troops to invade and occupy a country that had no history of terrorism and posed no threat to anyone, isn't it? Contrary to what you may be thinking, this is not evidence of an alterior motive behind the war on terror.
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What's really happening in Tehran
By Pepe Escobar
[...] As some Iranian analysts and ministry officials have told Asia Times Online in Tehran off the record, there are reasons to believe the leadership is misreading an avalanche of US signs related to the military and psychological preparation for a possible war.
For instance, fundamentalist Christians in the US - who support Zionism for theological reasons - unleashed a ferocious media campaign depicting Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad as the Antichrist who wants to destroy Jerusalem and prevent Jesus' comeback.
There are even indications that the Iranian leadership has not taken the Bush administration's explicit desire for regime change seriously. It's as if the leadership is persuading itself Washington would never dare to escalate the situation - especially after such US bodies as the Union of Concerned Scientists and the National Academy of Sciences have stated that a tactical nuclear strike could kill more than a million Iranians.
At Monday's press conference, Ahmadinejad, asked about possible military strikes, smiled broadly and dismissed the notion. "Military attacks? On what pretext?" he asked, adding that Iran was strong and could defend itself.
"Tehran appears hell-bent on defying the international community and pursuing a nuclear program that is of growing concern." - Sean McCormack, US State Department spokesman.
This followed a rare press conference with the international media in Tehran on Monday in which Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad suggested that Tehran might withdraw from the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and also said "there is no need" for US-Iranian talks on Iraq.
Because of the opacity of Iran's theocratic nationalism, outsiders may be tempted to assume that the official Iranian position is the one expressed last week in Baku, Azerbaijan, by Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar: "The United States has been threatening Iran for 27 years, and this is not new for us. Therefore, we are never afraid of US threats."
President George W Bush and other US administration officials have frequently said that "all options are on the table" with regard to Iran's nuclear program, which the United States suspects is designed to develop nuclear weapons.
Last month, the United Nations Security Council passed a statement asking Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei to report simultaneously to the council and the IAEA board by April 28 on whether Iran had halted enriching uranium, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear warheads. To date, Tehran has refused to do so.
Javad Zarif, the Iranian ambassador to the UN, has repeatedly relayed the official position. Iran's nuclear program is peaceful; there is no proof of a military development; the religious leadership opposes atomic weapons; and Iran has not invaded or attacked any nation for the past 250 years.
The power spheres in Iran seem to bet that even in the event of a shock and awe of B-2s, missiles and bunker busters, that simply is not enough to snuff out accumulated Iranian nuclear know-how and the quest to master the nuclear fuel cycle. So the only real question would be for how many years the US would be able to slow down Iran's nuclear program.
Is that all there is? Not really.
As some Iranian analysts and ministry officials have told Asia Times Online in Tehran off the record, there are reasons to believe the leadership is misreading an avalanche of US signs related to the military and psychological preparation for a possible war.
For instance, fundamentalist Christians in the US - who support Zionism for theological reasons - unleashed a ferocious media campaign depicting Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad as the Antichrist who wants to destroy Jerusalem and prevent Jesus' comeback.
There are even indications that the Iranian leadership has not taken the Bush administration's explicit desire for regime change seriously. It's as if the leadership is persuading itself Washington would never dare to escalate the situation - especially after such US bodies as the Union of Concerned Scientists and the National Academy of Sciences have stated that a tactical nuclear strike could kill more than a million Iranians.
At Monday's press conference, Ahmadinejad, asked about possible military strikes, smiled broadly and dismissed the notion. "Military attacks? On what pretext?" he asked, adding that Iran was strong and could defend itself.
Earlier, Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar said any US military attack over Iran's nuclear program would result in a humiliating defeat for the United States, the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.
But what if the Bush administration and the Ahmadinejad presidency were bluffing each other into a nuclear war?
Pick your faction
The key question is which Iranian leadership will have the final say. There are at least four main factions in the complex Iranian game of power politics.
The first faction is a sort of extreme right, closely aligned from the beginning to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and involved with a rapprochement with Sunni Arabs in general, while opposing even a tactical rapprochement with the US.
The faction includes the dreaded hojjatieh (a semi-clandestine, radically anti-Sunni organization) and the Iranian Hezbollah, which supports both the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Arab nationalism of Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq. Former defense minister Ali Chamkhani - whom Asia Times Online was told in Tehran could not talk to the foreign press - is very close to this faction. They are very conservative religiously and socialist economically.
The difference between the Iranian and the Lebanese Hezbollah is that in Beirut Hezbollah is much more active, pushing to be at the heart of political life and improving people's living conditions.
The role of Ahmadinejad - a former Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) middle-rank official - in molding this first faction has been crucial. In 2005, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had the support of former president and Machiavellian master of ambiguity, Hashemi Rafsanjani, at the highest levels of power - the Expediency Council.
But as a balancing act the supreme leader also decided to boost the profile of Ahmadinejad, who happened to be totally opposed to the pragmatist Rafsanjani. To add more arabesques to this Persian miniature, Khamenei's favorite candidate in the 2005 presidential elections was actually Baqer Qalibaf, a former chief of police - basically a conservative but in favor of a controlled opening of political life, the supreme leader's own policy.
What this all means is that Ahmadinejad - even winning against Rafsanjani and Qalibaf - and as the new leader of the extreme right is not really in charge of the government. It's an open secret in Tehran that the Pasdaran intervened in the elections through massive fraud. This has led in the past few months to the formation of an anti-Ahmadinejad coalition that ranges from Qalibaf supporters to - believe it or not - pro-secular intellectuals close to former president Mohammad Khatami.
The supreme leader knew that Ahmadinejad would revive the regime with his populist rhetoric, very appealing to the downtrodden masses. But the ruling ayatollahs may have miscalculated that since they control everything - the Supreme National Security Council, the Guardians Council, the foundations, the army, the media - they could also control the "street cleaner of the people". That was not the case, so now plan B - restraining the president, and the powerful Pasdaran - is in order.
The second key faction is composed of provincial clerics, whose master is the supreme leader himself. These are pure conservatives, attached to the purity of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and more patriotic than the first faction. They are not interested in more integration with Sunni Arabs. Faithful to the supreme leader, they want to keep both progressives and extremists "in the same house" (Ahl al Bait) , with the velayat-e-faqih - the role of jurisprudence - as the supreme law of the land. Ever since the 2004 parliamentary elections - largely boycotted by the Iranian population - an association of clerics totally dominates the majlis (parliament).
But there are huge problems behind this appearance of unity. Iranian money from the bonyads - foundations - badly wants a reconciliation with the West. They know that the relentless flight of both capital and brains - which is being actively encouraged by the Rafsanjani faction - is against the national interest. But they also know this can hurt Ahmadinejad's power. Some Western-connected Iranians are even comparing Ahmadinejad's current days to the Gang of Four in China a little while before the death of Mao Zedong in 1976.
The Pasdaran for their part want to keep their fight against Zionism and go all the way with the nuclear program. This entails the extraordinary possibility of a US attack against Iranian nuclear sites counting on the complicity of a great deal of the mullahcracy - which does not hide its desire to get rid of Ahmadinejad and his Pasdaran "gang".
All going the Machiavellian's way?
The third faction is the left - initially former partisans of the son of ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Ahmad Khomeini, who died in mysterious circumstances in the 1990s. After that they operated a spectacular mutation from Soviet-style socialism into some sort of religious democracy, which found its icon in former president Khatami of "dialogue of civilizations" fame. They became the so-called progressives - and even if they lost the 2004 and 2005 elections, they are still a force, although already debilitated by the slow awakening of a younger, more secular and more radical opposition.
The fourth and most unpredictable faction is Rafsanjani's. The consummate Machiavellian masterfully retained his own power from the late 1990s, juggling between Khamenei and Khatami. He may be the ultimate centrist, but Rafsanjani is and will always remain a supporter of the supreme leader. What he dearly wants is to restore Iran's national might and regional power, and reconcile the country with the West, for one essential reason: he knows an anti-Islamic tempest is already brewing among the youth in Iran's big cities.
As head of the Expediency Council, fully supported by the supreme leader, and in his quest to "save" the Islamic Revolution, Rafsanjani retains the best possible positioning.
Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad holds as much power as his predecessor - the urbane, enlightened and sartorially impeccable Khatami: that is, not much. What Ahmadinejad's obvious excesses are doing is to solidify the support the Rafsanjani faction is getting from the intelligentsia as well as the urban youth, not to mention the "enlightened police" faction of Qalibaf. This does not mean that another revolution is around the corner - as the Bush administration's wishful thinking goes.
Apart from these four factions, there are two others that are outside the ironclad circle of supreme-leader power: the revolutionary left and the secular right. Clerics call them biganeh (eccentric), and the denomination may be correct to a point, as both these groups are mostly disconnected from the majority of the population, although they also support the nuclear program out of patriotism.
The extreme left hates the mullahcracy, but has also derided Khatami's moderately progressive agenda. As for the Westernized liberals - which include former supporters of deposed prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh and members of the Freedom Movement of Iran, an opposition party, they are becoming increasingly popular with Tehran students, who are more and more pro-American (if not in foreign policy at least in behavior and cultural preferences).
The regime may in essence be unpopular - because of so much austerity and the virtual absence of social mobility - but for millions it is still bearable. No one seems to be dreaming of revolution in Iran. What is actually happening is the slow emergence of a common front - bent on the restoration of the power of the Iranian state through an alliance with Shi'ism in Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon.
This may be interpreted as a Shi'ite crescent by alarmist Sunni Arabs, but there's no military, expansionist logic behind it. The common front is also in favor of moving toward a more market economy and a progressive liberalization of morals and public opinion. This is what one hears in Tehran from young people, women, workers in the cultural industry, and philosophers - and it is Tehran that always sets the agenda in Iran.
If the regime does not open up, the Iranian economy will never create enough jobs over the next few years to fight unemployment among its overwhelmingly young population. A great deal of the non-oil-dependent private sector is controlled by the bonyads, whose managers are usually incompetent and corrupt clerics.
Many Iranians know that an economic crisis - high oil prices notwithstanding - will rip the heart out of the lower middle class, the regime's base, and more crucially the industrial working class, which used to be aligned with the Tudeh, Iran's communist party.
There is a way out
They key to solving most of Iran's problems lies in finding a compromise with the West - especially the Americans - regarding the nuclear dossier. For all his vocal, popular support in the provinces, if Ahmadinejad and his Pasdaran hardliners go against this national desire for stability and progress, they will be sidelined.
Demonizing Western parallels of Iran enriching a few grams of uranium as akin to Adolf Hitler's march into the Rhineland is positively silly. So far Iran has only disregarded a non-binding request from the UN Security Council. The uranium-enrichment program may be under the operational control of the Pasdaran, but Ahmadinejad does not set Iran's nuclear policy: the supreme leader does, his guidelines followed by the Supreme National Security Council, which is led by the leader's protege, Ali Larijani. Khamenei and Larijani have both substantially toned down the rhetoric; Ahmadinejad hasn't.
The point is not that Ahmadinejad is a suicidal nut bent on confronting the US by all means available. The point is that the president leads just one of four key factions in a do-or-die power play, and he is following his own agenda, which is not necessarily the Iranian theocratic leadership's agenda. Washington neo-conservatives for their part may want regime change - but that won't happen with another shock and awe.
Ahmadinejad is playing the typical Bonapartist - using a political deadlock to go all the way toward dictatorship. Rafsanjani may also be a Bonapartist, but the difference is he's not interested in dictatorship.
The ideal outcome of this whole "nuclear crisis" would be an Iran moving to a moderately liberal alliance between eternal pragmatist Rafsanjani - the only one capable of subduing the Pasdaran - and the semi-secular left, which still regards Khatami as the least bad of all possible models. It may not be paradise, but it certainly beats war.
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Iran should know about the very real, very serious U.S. plans for military intervention
By William Arkin
For The Washington Post
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Does the United States have a war plan for stopping Iran in its pursuit of nuclear weapons?
President Bush recently dismissed news reports that his administration has been working on contingency plans for war - particularly talk of the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons against Tehran - as "wild speculation." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld chimed in, calling it "fantasyland." He declared to reporters that "it just isn't useful" to talk about contingency planning.
But the secretary is wrong. It's important to talk about war planning that's real. And it is for Iran. In early 2003, even as U.S. forces were on the brink of war with Iraq, the Army had already begun conducting an analysis for a full-scale war with Iran. The analysis, called TIRANNT, for "theater Iran near term," was coupled with a mock scenario for a Marine Corps invasion and a simulation of the Iranian missile force. U.S. and British planners conducted a Caspian Sea war game. And Bush directed the U.S. Strategic Command to draw up a global strike war plan for an attack against Iranian weapons of mass destruction. All of this will ultimately feed into a new war plan for ''major combat operations'' against Iran that military sources confirm now exists in draft form.
None of this activity has been disclosed by the U.S. military, and when I wrote about Iran contingency planning last week on The Washington Post Web site, the Pentagon stuck to its dogged position that ''we don't discuss war plans.'' But it should.
The diplomatic effort directed at Iran would be mightily enhanced if that country understood that the United States is so serious about deterring their quest for nuclear weapons that it would be willing to go to war to stop that quest from reaching fruition.
Iran needs to know - and even more important, the American public needs to know - that no matter how many experts talk about difficult-to-find targets or the catastrophe that could unfold if war comes, military planners are already working hard to minimize the risks of any military operation. This is the very essence of contingency planning.
I've been tracking U.S. war planning, maintaining friends and contacts in that closed world, for more than 20 years. My one regret in writing about this secret subject, especially because the government always claims that revealing anything could harm U.S. forces, is not delving deeply enough into the details of the war plan for Iraq. Now, with Iran, it's once again difficult but essential to piece together the facts.
Here's what we know now. Under TIRANNT, Army and U.S. Central Command planners have been examining both near-term and out-year scenarios for war with Iran, including all aspects of a major combat operation, from mobilization and deployment of forces through postwar stability operations after regime change.
The core TIRANNT effort began in May 2003, when modelers and intelligence specialists pulled together the data needed for theater-level (meaning large-scale) scenario analysis for Iran. TIRANNT has since been updated using post-Iraq war information on the performance of U.S. forces. Meanwhile, Air Force planners have modeled attacks against existing Iranian air defenses and targets, while Navy planners have evaluated coastal defenses and drawn up scenarios for keeping control of the Strait of Hormuz at the base of the Persian Gulf.
A follow-up TIRANNT Campaign Analysis, which began in October 2003, calculated the results of different scenarios for action against Iran to provide options for analyzing courses of action in an updated Iran war plan. According to military sources close to the planning process, this task was given to Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of CENTCOM, in 2002.
The Marines, meanwhile, have not only been involved in CENTCOM's war planning, but have been focused on their own specialty, ''forcible entry.'' In April 2003, the Corps published its ''Concept of Operations'' for a maneuver against a mock country that explores the possibility of moving forces from ship to shore against a determined enemy without establishing a beachhead first. Though the Marine Corps enemy is described only as a deeply religious revolutionary country named Karona, it is - with its Revolutionary Guards, WMD and oil wealth - unmistakably meant to be Iran.
Various scenarios involving Iran's missile force have also been examined in another study, initiated in 2004 and known as BMD-I (ballistic missile defense - Iran). In this study, the Center for Army Analysis modeled the performance of U.S. and Iranian weapons systems to determine the number of Iranian missiles expected to leak through a coalition defense.
The day-to-day planning for dealing with Iran's missile force falls to the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha. In June 2004, Rumsfeld alerted the command to be prepared to implement CONPLAN 8022, a global strike plan that includes Iran. CONPLAN 8022 calls for bombers and missiles to be able to act within 12 hours of a presidential order. The new task force, sources have told me, mostly worries that if it were called upon to deliver ''prompt'' global strikes against certain targets in Iran under some emergency circumstances, the president might have to be told that the only option is a nuclear one.
Contingency planning for a bolt-out-of-the-blue attack, let alone full-fledged war, against Iran may seem incredible right now. But in the secretive world of military commands and war planners, it is an everyday and unfortunate reality. Iran needs to understand that the United States isn't hamstrung by a lack of options. It needs to realize that it can't just stonewall and evade its international obligations, that it can't burrow further underground in hopes that it will ''win'' merely because war is messy.
On the surface, Iran controls the two basic triggers that could set off U.S. military action. The first would be its acquisition of nuclear capability in defiance of the international community. Despite bluster from Tehran, the country is still years away from a nuclear weapon, let alone a workable one. We may have a global strike war plan oriented toward attacking countries with weapons of mass destruction, but that plan is also focused on North Korea, China and presumably Russia. The Bush administration is not going to wait for a nuclear attack. The United States is now a first-strike nation.
The second trigger would be Iran's lashing out militarily (or through proxy terrorism) at the United States or its allies, or closing the Strait of Hormuz to international oil traffic. Sources say that CENTCOM and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have developed ''flexible deterrent options'' in case Iran were to take such actions.
One might ask how these options could have any deterrent effect when the government won't talk about them. This is another reason why Rumsfeld should acknowledge that the United States is preparing war plans for Iran - and that this is not just routine. It is specifically a response to that country's illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons, its meddling in Iraq and its support for international terrorism.
Iran needs to know that the administration is dead serious. But we all need to know that even absent an Iranian nuke or an Iranian attack of any kind, there is still another catastrophic scenario that could lead to war.
In a world of ready war plans and post-Sept. 11 jitters, there is an ever greater demand for intelligence on the enemy. That means ever greater risks taken in collecting that intelligence. Meanwhile, war plans demand that forces be ready in certain places and on alert, while the potential for WMD necessitates shorter and shorter lead times for strikes against an enemy. So the greater danger now is of an inadvertent conflict, caused by something like the shooting down of a U.S. spy plane, by the capturing of a Special Operations or CIA team, or by nervous U.S. and Iranian forces coming into contact and starting to shoot at one another.
War planning is hardly neutral. It has subtle effects. As militaries stage mock attacks, potential adversaries become presumed enemies. Over time, contingency planning transforms yesterday's question marks into today's seeming certainty.
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Iran-Israel Linkage By Bush Seen As Threat
James D. Besser And Larry Cohler-Esses
The Jewish Week
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
President Bush is risking a backlash that could injure the Jewish community - and his own cause - by repeatedly citing Israel as his top rationale for possible U.S. military conflict with Iran, Jewish leaders and Middle East analysts warned this week.
Bush's repeated, sometimes exclusive, focus on Israel could spark public fury against the Jewish state and Jews if U.S. military action is accompanied by skyrocketing gas prices, terrorism at home or fallen G.I.'s who might be seen as dying for Israel, some said. Others feared it could fracture the shaky international coalition Bush is striving to assemble to oppose Iran's nuclear program by framing the threat as primarily to Israel rather than international stability.
Ambassador Edward Walker, a former U.S. envoy to Israel who now heads the Middle East Institute in Washington, termed Bush's Israel focus "a terrible idea."
"Just think about if gas prices go up to $7 a gallon as a result, and everybody is saying it's because of Israel," he said.
"I don't believe it is in Israel's best interests to have the American people going into a major military action, which is what we're talking about in Iran, with significant implications on the home front in terms of terrorism and energy prices, and then having people blame Israel," said Walker.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said "The linkage to Israel is not a good idea, because then the Iranians say, you see, it's the Zionists driving this.
"As much as we appreciate it, the question is whether it's beneficial to tie this to Israel," said Hoenlein, whose organization functions as the Jewish community's official umbrella group for speaking out on foreign policy issues.
Hoenlein pointed out that Iran is tied to terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, which operates in Lebanon and other countries. It also exercises influence over militias accused of atrocities in Iraq and aims to spread its influence throughout the Muslim world.
The danger of a nuclear-armed Iran "is a much greater one than just Israel," said Hoenlein.
In recent days, there have been reports of extensive U.S. military planning, possibly for a bombing campaign against a variety of Iranian targets. The aim, say the reports, would be to halt or, at least set back, what Iran insists is a peaceful program to produce nuclear energy. The United States, Europe and other countries fear this merely masks a covert Iranian drive to develop nuclear weapons.
Faced with increasing public clamor about a possible military conflict, Bush has repeatedly taken note of the threat a nuclear Iran would pose to Israel. Indeed, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction, most recently this week. On some occasions, President Bush has offered this as his sole rationale for confronting Iran.
In a March 20 speech in Cleveland, for example, Bush replied to a question about the influence of apocalyptic Christian theology on his policies with a long, rambling answer in which he raised the threat he saw from Iran and said, "Now that I'm on Iran ... the threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel. It's a threat to world peace; it's a threat, in essence, to a strong alliance. I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel."
Other administration leaders have brought Israel into center stage on Iran in a different way - suggesting strong U.S. action could be necessary to keep Israel from acting on its own.
"One of the concerns people have is that Israel might [attack Iran] without being asked," said Vice President Dick Cheney in a February 2005 radio interview, "that if, in fact, the Israelis became convinced the Iranians had significant nuclear capability, given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards."
Asked why Bush has made Israel a focus, Walker said, "because he is not very attuned to the history of the situation and he has some really strange advisers who do not understand the broader implications of this, in terms of the vast majority of the American public."
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-L.I./Queens), a frequent administration critic, said Bush's focus increases the likelihood of a backlash against Jews and Israel if a U.S.-led war on Iran turns sour.
"It's a horrible thing to do, it's dangerous," he said. "If something goes wrong, it's a setup to say we did it for Israel and not for America, and to blame the Jews."
Asked if he thought that was President Bush's intent, Ackerman said "I don't believe in accidents and coincidences in this business. They choose their words very carefully. This is not the first time the president has said this, but now it looks like it's their whole program."
Ironically, Middle East analysts say Israel's own public stand has, by and large, played down the threat that Bush is playing up.
"For past few years, the position of the Israeli government has been that Iran's nuclear program was not an Israeli issue," said Shai Feldman, director of Brandeis University's Crown Center for Middle East studies. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from 2000, said Feldman, Israel stressed the problem was "an international issue, a challenge to international stability."
Israel may have felt comfortable stepping back because the European countries and even Russia and China have cooperated with the United States on the issue in ways they did not in the lead-up to the War in Iraq, Feldman conceded. This may have allowed Israel to de-emphasize itself, he said.
"In terms of maintaining this kind of international support, to say Israel is a primary concern is extremely counterproductive," Feldman said.
Furthermore, he explained, many-though not all-Israeli analysts do not see a nuclear Iran as the kind of "existential threat" that Bush depicts. For all its president's rhetoric, many Israeli analysts view Iran's record as "on the whole, quite risk averse" and see a rational actor that would remain very aware of Israel's second-strike capability, he said.
"It's not that the day after Iran gets the nuclear bomb they drop it on Tel-Aviv," said Feldman. It is rather, the many "general geopolitical implications" of a nuclear Iran that concern Israel, he said.
"One is that it would lead other countries [in the region] to follow suit" with their own nuclear arms programs, he said. "Two is that an Iran equipped with nuclear weapons would throw its weight around the region to a much greater extent than is currently the case."
Shoshana Bryen, special projects director for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), agreed that the administration's strong focus on Israel could undermine its already shaky efforts to build a broad international coalition to pressure and possibly fight Iran.
"It's a perfectly reasonable response to the fact that Iran has threatened only two countries - the United States and Israel," said Bryen, whose group promotes strong ties between the U.S. and Israeli military. "The problem is that doing that gives countries that would like an excuse for not acting on Iran an out."
Ahmadinejad believes the more Washington focuses on Israel as a factor in the Iran debate, the more trouble it will have recruiting allies, she said.
David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said he has already seen signs of a backlash against Jewish groups because of his group's support for a tough stand against Iran's nuclear program.
Harris' group recently published an ad in The New York Times and the Financial Times headlined "A Nuclear Iran Threatens Us All," showing a map with concentric rings delineating the current and projected ranges of Iranian missiles now deployed and under development.
"Our point is and remains that Iran is a global problem," he said. "Israel is one target, but not the only one."
But letters to the editor blasted the group and said the ad was proof of the destructive impact of the Jewish lobby, Harris said.
"So there is always the possibility of a backlash," said Harris.
Harris said his group "welcomes and appreciates the administration's expressed support for Israel. ... But we maintain this is a problem that goes far beyond Israel."
Some Jewish leaders seem conflicted - pleased that the president is actively concerned about Israel's security but uncertain about his motives.
"The fact that the president is saying, time and time again, that Israel is under our [defense] umbrella should be welcomed and encouraged," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. But Foxman said the president's exact motives in linking Israel so closely to U.S. Iran aims are unclear.
"Is this a security umbrella on behalf of Israel? Is it meant as a message to Israel? Or to Iran? At this point nobody really knows its significance."
Jewish leaders say that while many have pushed for a forceful U.S. stand against Iran, no one is actively promoting the military option. Even some hawkish groups caution that attacking Iran could have unintended and devastating consequences.
JINSA's Bryen, for example, that a military strike with civilian casualties will probably "strengthen the regime."
There are no simple options, she continued, "which may be why the president keeps raising the specter of Israel. Everybody is hoping for a magic bullet, whether it be an Israeli or a U.S. magic bullet." n
James D. Besser is Washington correspondent;
Larry Cohler-Esses is editor at large.
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Tehran insider tells of US black ops
By an Asia Times Online Special Correspondent
April 25, 2006
TEHRAN - A former Iranian ambassador and Islamic Republic insider has provided intriguing details to Asia Times Online about US covert operations inside Iran aimed at destabilizing the country and toppling the regime - or preparing for an American attack.
"The Iranian government knows and is aware of such infiltration. It means that the Iranian government has identified them [the covert operatives] but for some reason does not want to show [this]," said the former diplomat on condition of anonymity.
Speaking in Tehran, the ex-Foreign Ministry official said the agents being used by the US "were originally Iranians and not Americans" possibly recruited in the United States or through US embassies in Dubai and Ankara. He also warned that such actions will engender "some reactions".
"Both sides will certainly do something," he said in a reference to Iran's capability to stir trouble up in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan for the occupying US troops there.
Veteran US journalist Seymour Hersh wrote in a much-discussed recent article in The New Yorker magazine that the administration of President George W Bush has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack as the crisis with Iran over its nuclear program escalates.
Hersh wrote that "teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups". The template seems identical to the period that preceded US air strikes against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan during which a covert Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) campaign distributed millions of dollars to tribal allies.
"The Iranian accusations are true," said Richard Sale, intelligence correspondent for United Press International, referring to charges that the US is using the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) organization and other groups to carry out cross-border operations. "But it is being done on such a small scale - a series of pinpricks - it would seem to have no strategic value at all."
There has been a marked spike in unrest in Kurdistan, Khuzestan and Balochistan, three of Iran's provinces with a high concentration of ethnic Kurdish, Arab and Balochi minorities respectively. With the exception of the immediate post-revolutionary period, when the Kurds rebelled against the central government and were suppressed violently, ethnic minorities have received better treatment, more autonomy and less ethnic discrimination than under the shah.
"The president hasn't notified the Congress that American troops are operating inside Iran," said Sam Gardiner, a retired US Army colonel who specializes in war-game scenarios. "So it's a very serious question about the constitutional framework under which we are now conducting military operations in Iran."
Camp Warhorse is the major US military base in the strategic Iraqi province of Diyala that borders Iran. Last month, Asia Times Online asked the US official in charge of all overt and covert operations emanating from there whether the military and the MEK colluded on an operational level. He denied any such knowledge.
"They have a gated community up there," came the genial reply. "Not really guarded - it's more gated. They bake really good bread," he added, smiling.
But that is contrary to what Hersh was told by his sources, According to him, US combat troops are already inside Iran and, in the event of air strikes, would be in position to mark critical targets with laser beams to ensure bombing accuracy and excite sectarian tensions between the population and the central government. As of early winter, Hersh's source claims that the units were also working with minority groups in Iran, including the Azeris in the north, the Balochis in the southeast, and the Kurds in the northwest.
Last week, speaking on the sidelines of a Palestinian solidarity conference, Major-General Yehyia Rahim Safavi, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander, sent a warning to the US and British intelligence services he accuses of using Iraq and Kuwait to infiltrate Iran. "I tell them that their agents can be our agents too, and they should not waste their money so casually."
On April 9, Iran claimed to have shot down an unmanned surveillance plane in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, according to a report in the semi-official Jumhuri Eslami newspaper. US media have also reported that the US military has been secretly flying surveillance drones over Iran since 2004, using radar, video, still photography and air filters to monitor Iranian military formations and track Iran's air-defense system. The US denied having lost a drone.
This new mission for the combat troops is a product of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's long-standing interest in expanding the role of the military in covert operations, which was made official policy in the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review, published in February. Such activities, if conducted by CIA operatives, would need a Presidential Finding and would have to be reported to key members of Congress.
The confirmation that the US is carrying out covert activities inside Iran makes more sense out of a series of suspicious events that have occurred along Iran's borders this year. In early January, a military airplane belonging to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards went down close to the Iraqi border. The plane was carrying 11 of the Guard's top commanders, including General Ahmad Kazemi, the commander of the IRGC's ground forces, and Brigadier-General Nabiollah Shahmoradi, who was deputy commander for intelligence.
Although a spokesman blamed bad weather and dilapidated engines for the crash, the private intelligence company Stratfor noted that there are several reasons to suspect foul play, not least of which was that any aircraft carrying so many of Iran's elite military luminaries would undergo "thorough tests for technical issues before flight". Later, Iran's defense minister accused Britain and the US of bringing the plane down through "electronic jamming".
"Given all intelligence information that we have gathered, we can say that agents of the United States, Britain and Israel are seeking to destabilize Iran through a coordinated plan," Minister of Interior Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi said. This sentiment was echoed on websites such as AmericanIntelligence.us, where one reader commented, "We couldn't have made a better hit on the IRGC's leadership if planned ... sure it was just an accident?"
Then, in late January, a previously unknown Sunni Muslim group called Jundallah (Soldier of Allah) captured nine Iranian soldiers in the remote badlands of Sistan-Balochistan province that borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. And in mid-February, another airplane crashed just inside Iraq after taking off from Azerbaijan and transiting Iranian airspace. The Iranian Mehr news agency reported that the "passengers on board were possibly of Israeli origin". It added that US troops have restricted access to the site to Iraqi Kurdish officials and that Western media were reporting the passengers aboard as having been German.
The Iranian government has not sat idly by and just taken these breaches of sovereignty. Early this month, an unidentified source in the Interior Ministry was quoted by the hardline Kayhan newspaper as saying that the leader and 11 members of the Jundallah group had been killed by Iranian troops. Then last Friday, Iranian missile batteries shelled Iranian Kurdish rebel positions inside Iraqi territory. They were targeting a militant group called PJAK that seeks more autonomy for Iran's Kurdish population and has been operating out of Iraq since 1999.
The former Iranian ambassador argues that in the event that US pressure on Iran continues, "the end of the tunnel" for President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's administration is "weaponization of the [nuclear] technology ... and a military strike".
"The Americans are pushing Iran to become a nuclear state. Iran just wants to be a supplier of nuclear fuel. But [with their threats] they are pushing it further."
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Last-ditch talks between Iran and UN nuclear agency
April 26, 2006
VIENNA - The head of Iran's nuclear agency, Vice President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, was to hold last-ditch talks with the UN nuclear watchdog, two days before a UN deadline for Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment.
However hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated in Tehran earlier Wednesday that Iran would ignore any UN Security Council demands to halt its disputed nuclear program.
"We won't back down one iota on our lawful and inalienable rights," the president was quoted as saying by the official news agency IRNA.
The Security Council set on March 29 a non-binding, 30-day deadline for Iran to honor the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency's requests for it to stop enriching uranium -- which makes nuclear reactor fuel but also atom bomb material -- and cooperate with IAEA inspectors.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei is due to report to the Council on Friday on Iranian compliance, but US and other diplomats say the message will be that Iran has failed to honor the agency's demands.
This could lead to UN Security Council sanctions against Iran, although Iranian allies Russia and China oppose such a move.
The crisis over the Iranian nuclear program, which the United States claims hides secret development of atomic weapons, escalated Tuesday when Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Islamic republic was ready to share nuclear technology with other countries.
US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said this showed "how irresponsible Iran is and why it represents, in our view, a grave threat of proliferation."
In a dramatic move, Aghazadeh was flying into Vienna "for technical talks" at the headquarters of the IAEA which has for over three years been investigating Iran's nuclear work.
Aghazadeh was to meet with IAEA director of safeguards Olli Heinonen Wednesday afternoon, IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.
A diplomat close to the IAEA said Aghazadeh would also meet the agency's chief Mohamed ElBaradei but Fleming refused to confirm this.
"The Iranians are coming here to provide information. If they do, they might get to see ElBaradei, otherwise there is nothing to talk about," a second diplomat said.
The first diplomat said the Iranian visit "doesn't mean much actually. I don't see that the Iranians are going to come around. It's more of a pacifying gesture."
This is because ElBaradei was "upset" at being rebuffed after he had made a personal appeal in Tehran earlier this month for Iran to comply with IAEA demands, the diplomat said.
Iran has proposed to hold off on expanding its enrichment capabilities at a facility in Natanz if it is allowed to continue the work it has started -- an idea the US and EU states have rejected.
But Aghazadeh may float this idea again, diplomats said.
The Council could pass a resolution making full suspension of enrichment and full cooperation with the IAEA investigation of Iran's nuclear program legally binding if Iran does not heed the Friday deadline.
This could open the door to UN international economic sanctions or even military action, something the United States has not ruled out.
The United States believes ElBaradei's report will show Iran has failed to comply with the Security Council demands, US ambassador to the IAEA Gregory Schulte said in Berlin on Tuesday.
A senior European diplomat said in Vienna: "It is not going to be a good report. That is quite clear. What is there positive to report?"
Heinonen had last week put off a trip to Iran in what diplomats said was a clear sign that Tehran is failing to heed IAEA demands.
Heinonen postponed the trip when Iran refused to answer questions about possibly secret enrichment work and activities, including missile research, that could be related to making and using nuclear weapons.
The agency wants to interview military officers who may have overseen secret enrichment or "dual-use" activities and to find out if Iran hid work with sophisticated P2 centrifuges, which can enrich uranium more quickly and abundantly than earlier models.
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Iran Marks 1980 US Debacle, Warns Washington It Risks Repeat
by Farhad Pouladi
Apr 25, 2006
Tehran - Thousands of religious hardliners chanting "Death to America" gathered in Iran's central desert on Tuesday to celebrate a failed US hostage rescue mission 26 years ago. The anniversary of the US military debacle came amid a mounting war of words with Washington, reported to be mulling the use of force to rein in the Islamic republic's disputed nuclear programme.
Iranian officials used the occasion to tell US leaders that they risked yet more "divine intervention" if they dared to again set foot on Iranian soil.
"The Tabas incident should act as a reminder to US statesmen. They should not test us when they know the consequences," the hardline speaker of the Iranian parliament, Gholam Ali Hadad-Adel, told MPs.
In the early hours of April 25, 1980, a commando of 90 US special forces aboard six C-130 cargo planes and eight helicopters headed for Iran to try to free the hostages held at the US embassy in Tehran.
The helicopters had been due to land close to the seized embassy, but the operation turned into a disaster when the desert rendevous point -- near the city of Tabas some 400 kilometres (250 miles) southeast of Tehran -- was whipped by a sandstorm.
The operation, codenamed Eagle Claw, resulted in the deaths of eight US servicemen and was quickly abandoned. Its failure also contributed to the subesequent election defeat of then US president Jimmy Carter.
"Again the American authorities are showing their teeth and say that a military option is on the table. It's a good idea to remind them what happened on April 25, 1980," Hadad-Adel said.
State television meanwhile broadcast a film called "Sandstorm", an Iranian docu-drama made in 1996. The film contends that the sand particles that ruined the mission were in fact "God's soldiers" protecting the "holy regime of the Islamic republic."
At the site of the desert rendezvous -- still littered with small pieces of debris of a helicopter and C-130 -- the event was celebrated with the inauguration of a roadside service station and a mosque.
The head of Iran's 'Foundation for Preserving Sacred Defence Values', Mirfaisal Baqirzadeh, told the IRNA news agency that 3,000 supporters making the customary chant of "Death to America" were at the scene.
"Divine intervention has always been a protector of the Iranian people," his organisation said in a statement. "We should insist on our nuclear rights, since victory is with those who are patient."
On Monday, Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar warned the United States it risked "a disgraceful defeat worse than the failure in Tabas desert," should it attempt a new military intervention in Iran.
Iran and the United States broke diplomatic relations on April 8, 1980, following the taking of US hostages and before the Tabas operation.
The UN Security Council has given the Islamic republic until the end of the month to halt its uranium enrichment activities, seen as the cover for a weapons drive. Iran has refused to comply with the demand, arguing it wants only to generate electricity.
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Russian Missile exports to Iran alarm US
Washington has asked Moscow to reconsider selling Iran anti-aircraft missiles as the crisis over its nuclear programme continues.
Russia plans to sell Tehran 29 TOR M1 mobile surface-to-air missile defence systems in a deal said to be worth about US $700 million (Ł392m).
"This is not time for business as usual with the Iranian government," a top US state department official said.
The US also urged other states like China to review defence sales to Iran.
"There are a lot of countries that allow the export of dual-use technologies, and the position of the United States is that should be prohibited," said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns.
"All countries should refrain from military sales and arm sales."
Speaking about the Russian missiles, he said:
"We hope and we trust that that deal will not go forward because this is not time for business as usual with the Iranian government."
Russia and China are both strongly resisting attempts to impose United Nations sanctions on Iran, which the US and other Western states believes is pursuing nuclear weapons.
The US arms appeal is a sign of increasing concern in Washington at the speed with which Iran is pursuing its programme, the BBC's Jonathan Beale reports from Washington.
Russia says it has to see concrete proof that Iran's nuclear programme - which it is supplying with technology - is not peaceful.
The UN's position is that so far no proof has emerged that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons but nor has Iran proved that it is not.
The UN Security Council is awaiting a report from Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), next week.
Tehran has defied UN calls to stop nuclear activity, saying last week it had successfully enriched uranium.
However it denies any nuclear weapons plans, saying it wants nuclear power only for energy purposes.
Iran's ambassador to the IAEA said on Friday Tehran would "continue its full co-operation" with the body.
But the IAEA says Iran has not co-operated fully, and one of its senior inspectors has called off a visit to the country that was supposed to have taken place on Friday.
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Russian Rocket Carries Israeli Satellite to Spy on Iran
A Russian booster rocket has been launched from the Svobodny cosmodrome carrying an Israeli Eros B satellite. The Israeli military say it will be used to spy on Iran.
The Eros B satellite is designed to spot objects on the ground as small as 70 centimeters across, and will be used to help Israel gather information on Iran's nuclear program and its long-range missiles, which are capable of striking Israel, Ha'aretz newspaper wrote. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Tuesday that Israel would not "turn a blind eye" to the Iranian threat.
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The Peg-leg Zombie
"Zarqawi" appears in rare Web video
Tue Apr 25, 2006 1:02pm ET
DUBAI - The leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, said mujahideen were fighting on despite a three-year "crusader" war, according to a rare video of him posted on the Internet on Tuesday.
A statement from the al-Qaeda affiliated Mujahideen Council, accompanying the tape said it was the first "video of the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq".
"Your mujahideen sons were able to confront the most ferocious of crusader campaigns on a Muslim state. They have stood in the face of this onslaught for three years," Zarqawi said on the video.
"When the crusader enemy entered Iraq, he intended to control the Islamic nation and supported the Zionist state," said Zarqawi, who was clad in black and a green vest with an assault rifle by his side.
Zarqawi, who has earlier issued his messages via audio recordings, was also shown training with a group of masked men outdoors.
Comment: Zarqawi is back from the dead - again!
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Surprise! Zarqawi video message comes just hours before Rice, Rumsfeld visit Iraq
April 26, 2006
BAGHDAD, - Iraq's most wanted man -- Al-Qaeda frontman Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- voiced new defiance of Washington in a first reported video message posted just hours before the US defence secretary and secretary of state flew into Baghdad.
US commanders said they had no reason to doubt the authenticity of the recording of a man who carries a 25-million-dollar US bounty on his head and vowed to press their manhunt for the Al-Qaeda frontman.
"By God, America will be defeated in Iraq," Zarqawi warned in the video message posted on an Islamist website late Tuesday.
"America will be chased out of the Land of Two Rivers (Iraq) defeated and humiliated," he vowed in the recording, which came just two days after an audio message from Al-Qaeda's overall leader Osama bin Laden.
A bearded, beefy Zarqawi, with a black scarf wrapped around his head, was shown gripping an automatic rifle and meeting with fighters briefing him on events in the western Iraqi town of Ramadi, an insurgent stronghold.
The footage was dated to last Friday.
The shadowy Jordanian-born Zarqawi, who has been blamed for some of the deadliest attacks of the three-year-old Iraq insurgency, had taken a low profile in recent months.
The US military has said it has captured a number of his top aides, raising speculation about whether the noose was finally tightening on Iraq's enemy number one, or if in fact the militant had died.
But his first known video message demonstrated to the world that the Al-Qaeda leader was alive and well, a fact acknowledged by US commanders.
"At this time, we have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the tape and we are taking it at face value," a military spokesman in Baghdad said.
"This appears to be a direct reaction to the progress of forming a legitimate and permanent government for the people of Iraq, a process Al-Qaeda in Iraq has always tried to undermine by every means possible," he added.
"Their greatest fear is a legitimate government that is truly representative of the will of the people."
The spokesman was referring to the designation of Jawad Maliki as prime minister last Saturday that ended four months of political deadlock.
The videotape of the Al-Qaeda frontman was posted on the Internet just hours before US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld flew in to Baghdad on an unannounced visit to meet with leaders of the fledgling government of national unity.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was on a separate European tour, joined Rumsfeld in the Iraqi capital.
The US military's chief spokesman, Brigadier General Rudy Wright, said the Al-Qaeda frontman remained a danger to all Iraqis and vowed that US-led troops would not abandon their efforts to kill or capture him.
"Zarqawi and the terrorists and criminals he leads are the true enemy of Iraq," Wright told AFP.
"The terrorists and foreign fighters that he recruits, trains and equips carry out more than 90 percent of the insidious suicide attacks against the men, women and children of Iraq. These attacks have killed or injured thousands in the past year.
"Iraqi and coalition forces continue to conduct aggressive operations to eliminate the threat Zarqawi and Al-Qaeda in Iraq pose to Iraq."
There had previously been only audiotapes of Zarqawi, while the US military obtained photos of the Al-Qaeda frontman in February 2005 when the rebel purportedly fled by car from a US checkpoint outside Ramadi.
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Flashback: Iraq militants claim al-Zarqawi is dead
March 4, 2004
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A Jordanian extremist suspected of bloody suicide attacks in Iraq was killed some time ago in U.S. bombing and a letter outlining plans for fomenting sectarian war is a forgery, a statement allegedly from an insurgent group west of the capital said.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in the Sulaimaniyah mountains of northern Iraq "during the American bombing there," according to a statement circulated in Fallujah this week and signed by the "Leadership of the Allahu Akbar Mujahedeen."
The statement did not say when al-Zarqawi was supposedly killed, but U.S. jets bombed strongholds of the extremist Ansar al-Islam in the north last April as Saddam Hussein's regime was collapsing.
It said al-Zarqawi was unable to escape the bombing because of his artificial leg.
Before the Iraq conflict began last March, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said al-Zarqawi received hospital treatment in Baghdad after fleeing Afghanistan. U.S. intelligence sources said he apparently was fitted with an artificial leg.
The statement said the "fabricated al-Zarqawi memo" has been used by the U.S.-run coalition "to back up their theory of a civil war" in Iraq.
In February, the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq made public an intercepted letter it said was written by al-Zarqawi to al-Qaida leaders, detailing a strategy of spectacular attacks to derail the planned June 30 handover of power to the Iraqis. U.S. officials say al-Zarqawi may have been involved in some of the series of suicide bombings this year in Iraq.
"The truth is, al-Qaida is not present in Iraq," the Mujahedeen statement said. Though many Arabs entered the country to fight U.S. troops, only a small number remain, the group said.
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Flashback: How US fuelled myth of Zarqawi the mastermind
By Adrian Blomfield outside Fallujah
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist leader believed to be responsible for the abduction of Kenneth Bigley, is 'more myth than man', according to American military intelligence agents in Iraq.
Several sources said the importance of Zarqawi, blamed for many of the most spectacular acts of violence in Iraq, has been exaggerated by flawed intelligence and the Bush administration's desire to find "a villain" for the post-invasion mayhem.
Zarqawi fuels his ambition with the release of a video of the beheading of Nick Berg
US military intelligence agents in Iraq have revealed a series of botched and often tawdry dealings with unreliable sources who, in the words of one source, "told us what we wanted to hear".
"We were basically paying up to $10,000 a time to opportunists, criminals and chancers who passed off fiction and supposition about Zarqawi as cast-iron fact, making him out as the linchpin of just about every attack in Iraq," the agent said.
"Back home this stuff was gratefully received and formed the basis of policy decisions. We needed a villain, someone identifiable for the public to latch on to, and we got one."
The sprawling US intelligence community is in a state of open political warfare amid conflicting pressures from election-year politics, military combat and intelligence analysis. The Bush administration has seized on Zarqawi as the principal leader of the insurgency, mastermind of the country's worst suicide bombings and the man behind the abduction of foreign hostages. He is held up as the most tangible link to Osama bin Laden and proof of the claim that the former Iraqi regime had links to al-Qa'eda.
However, fresh intelligence emerging from around Fallujah, the rebel-held city that is at the heart of the insurgency, suggests that, despite a high degree of fragmentation, the insurgency is led and dominated not by Arab foreigners but by members of Iraq's Sunni minority.
Human intelligence about Zaqawi is minimal
Pentagon estimates have put the number of foreign fighters in the region of 5,000. However, one agent said: "The overwhelming sense from the information we are now getting is that the number of foreign fighters does not exceed several hundred and is perhaps as low as 200. From the information we have gathered we have to conclude that Zarqawi is more myth than man. He isn't in the calibre of what many politicians want to believe he is.
"At some stage, and perhaps even now, he was almost certainly behind some of the kidnappings. But if there is a main leader of the insurgency he would be an Iraqi. The insurgency, though, is not nearly so centralised to talk of a structured leadership."
Military intelligence officials complain that their reports to Washington, are largely being ignored. They accuse the Pentagon of over-reliance on electronic surveillance and aerial and satellite reconnaissance carried out for the CIA.
In recent weeks American military command in Iraq has claimed a series of precision air strikes on targets in Fallujah identified by the CIA as housing known associates of Zarqawi.
It has denied that there were any civilian casualties, despite television footage showing dead and wounded women and children being pulled from the rubble of flattened homes.
Some US military spies maintain that this is evidence of continued dependency on technology over old-fashioned human intelligence.
Both President George W Bush and Tony Blair have, to varying degrees, conceded that intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programme was misleading. But both continue to maintain that the continued violence since Saddam was ousted is because Iraq is now the front line in the war on terrorism.
Yet it now seems that the intelligence on which such claims are based is haphazard, scanty and contradictory.
No concrete proof of the link between Zarqawi and bin Laden was offered until US officials this year trumpeted the discovery of a computer disk, allegedly intercepted by Kurdish peshmerga guerrillas. Among its files was an apparent draft of a letter from Zarqawi to bin Laden.
"We will be your readied soldiers, working under your banner, complying with your orders and indeed swearing fealty to you publicly and in the news media," the letter read.
That seemed proof enough for the US government. "Zarqawi is the best evidence of the connection to al-Qa'eda affiliates and al-Qa'eda," Mr Bush said in June.
But senior diplomats in Baghdad claim that the letter was almost certainly a hoax. They say the two men may have met in Afghanistan but it appeared they never got on and there has been a rift for several years.
One diplomat claimed that there was evidence to suggest that Zarqawi's aides may have passed on information to the Americans that led to the arrest of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, one of the main planners of the September 11 attacks.
The diplomats describe Zarqawi as deeply ambitious. His actions are aimed as much at boosting his position in the Islamic terrorist fraternity as striking at America. He achieved that in April when a grisly and apparently authentic video showing the beheading of the contractor Nick Berg. The footage was released under the title "Sheikh Abu Musab Zarqawi executes an American with his own hands and promises Bush more".
A diplomat commented: "That catapaulted Zarqawi to exactly where he wanted to be - giving Osama a run for his money as US public enemy number one. But, the video apart, intelligence on the Jordanian is thin.
Intelligence reports are contradictory even on whether he is missing a leg.
Initial claims of a Long John Silver character with an artificial leg were disputed by more recent alleged sightings of the 38-year-old apparently fully limbed and looking rather sprightly.
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Flashback: US propaganda magnifies Zarqawi threat: report
Mon Apr 10, 2006
Officers familiar with the propaganda program were cited as saying that one goal was to drive a wedge into the insurgency by emphasizing Zarqawi's terrorist acts and foreign origin.
"Villainize Zarqawi/leverage xenophobia response," a U.S. military briefing document from 2004 stated, the Post reported.
WASHINGTON - The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to overstate the threat to stability posed by the al Qaeda leader in Iraq, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
Some senior military intelligence officers believe the importance of the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi may have been exaggerated, the newspaper reported, citing military documents and officers familiar with the program.
According to the article, Col. Derek Harvey, who served as a military intelligence officer in Iraq, told a U.S. Army meeting last summer: "Our own focus on Zarqawi has enlarged his caricature, if you will -- made him more important than he really is, in some ways."
"The long-term threat is not Zarqawi or religious extremists, but these former regime types and their friends," Harvey said in a transcript of the meeting at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the Post reported.
Harvey said at the meeting that, while Zarqawi and other foreign insurgents in Iraq have carried out deadly bombing attacks, they remain "a very small part of the actual numbers," according to the newspaper.
Largely aimed at Iraqis, the Zarqawi campaign began two years ago and was believed to be ongoing, the Post said. It has included leaflets, radio and television broadcasts and at least one leak to an American journalist, the newspaper said.
Another military officer familiar with the program told the newspaper that the material was all in Arabic. But the officer said the Zarqawi campaign "probably raised his profile in the American press's view," the report said.
Zarqawi has a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head.
Officers familiar with the propaganda program were cited as saying that one goal was to drive a wedge into the insurgency by emphasizing Zarqawi's terrorist acts and foreign origin.
"Villainize Zarqawi/leverage xenophobia response," a U.S. military briefing document from 2004 stated, the Post reported.
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Flashback: Robert Fisk: Somebody is trying to provoke a civil war in Iraq.
Reporter: Tony Jones
The real question I ask myself is: who are these people who are trying to provoke the civil war? Now the Americans will say it's Al Qaeda, it's the Sunni insurgents. It is the death squads. Many of the death squads work for the Ministry of Interior. Who runs the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad? Who pays the Ministry of the Interior? Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do, the occupation authorities. [...]
ROBERT FISK: Well, I don't know if al-Zarqawi is alive. You know, al-Zarqawi did exist before the American Anglo-American invasion. He was up in the Kurdish area, which was not actually properly controlled by Saddam. But after that he seems to have disappeared. We know there's an identity card that pops up. We know the Americans say we think we've recognised him on a videotape. Who recognises him on a videotape? How many Americans have ever met al-Zarqawi? Al-Zarqawi's mother died more than 12 months ago and he didn't even send commiserations or say "I'm sorry to hear that". His wife of whom he was very possessive is so poor she has to go out and work in the family town of Zarqa. Hence the name Zarqawi. I don't know if al-Zarqawi is alive or exists at the moment. I don't know if he isn't a sort of creature invented in order to fill in the narrative gaps, so to speak. What is going on in Iraq at the moment is extremely mysterious.
(Transcript of entire interview below)
TONY JONES: Well, Robert Fisk is one of the most experienced observers of the Middle East and in his latest book, 'The Great War for Civilisation - the Conquest of the Middle East', he draws on almost 30 years of reporting from his base in Lebanon to look at the forces which have shaped current events and conflicts Robert Fisk, thanks for being there.
ROBERT FISK, WRITER & JOURNALIST: You're welcome.
TONY JONES: Now, unless you've changed your position in recent days, the one thing that you and President Bush agree on is there's not going to be a civil war in Iraq.
ROBERT FISK: Yeah, I listened to Bush. It made me doubt myself when I heard him say that. I still go along and say what I said before - Iraq is not a sectarian society, but a tribal society. People are intermarried. Shiites and Sunnis marry each other. It's not a question of having a huge block of people here called Shiites and a huge block of people called Sunnis any more than you can do the same with the United States, saying Blacks are here and Protestants are here and so on. But certainly, somebody at the moment is trying to provoke a civil war in Iraq. Someone wants a civil war. Some form of militias and death squads want a civil war. There never has been a civil war in Iraq. The real question I ask myself is: who are these people who are trying to provoke the civil war? Now the Americans will say it's Al Qaeda, it's the Sunni insurgents. It is the death squads. Many of the death squads work for the Ministry of Interior. Who runs the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad? Who pays the Ministry of the Interior? Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do, the occupation authorities. I'd like to know what the Americans are doing to get at the people who are trying to provoke the civil war. It seems to me not very much. We don't hear of any suicide bombers being stopped before they blow themselves up. We don't hear of anybody stopping a mosque getting blown up. We're not hearing of death squads all being arrested. Something is going very, very wrong in Baghdad. Something is going wrong with the Administration. Mr Bush says, "Oh, yes, sure, I talk to the Shiites and I talk to the Sunnis." He's talking to a small bunch of people living behind American machine guns inside the so-called Green Zone, the former Republican palace of Saddam Hussein, which is surrounded by massive concrete walls like a crusader castle. These people do not and cannot even leave this crusader castle. If they want to leave to the airport, they're helicoptered to the airport. They can't even travel on the airport road. What we've got at the moment is a little nexus of people all of whom live under American protection and talk on the telephone to George W Bush who says, "I've been talking to them and they have to choose between chaos and unity." These people can't even control the roads 50 metres from the Green Zone in which they work.
TONY JONES: OK.
ROBERT FISK: There's total chaos now in Iraq.
TONY JONES: Let's go back, if we can, to start answering that question about who wants civil war. Back one week to the bombing of the golden shrine in Samarra. Now, most people do think the only people with reasons for doing that would be the Al Qaeda in Iraq group led by al-Zarqawi. You don't agree?
ROBERT FISK: Well, I don't know if al-Zarqawi is alive. You know, al-Zarqawi did exist before the American Anglo-American invasion. He was up in the Kurdish area, which was not actually properly controlled by Saddam. But after that he seems to have disappeared. We know there's an identity card that pops up. We know the Americans say we think we've recognised him on a videotape. Who recognises him on a videotape? How many Americans have ever met al-Zarqawi? Al-Zarqawi's mother died more than 12 months ago and he didn't even send commiserations or say "I'm sorry to hear that". His wife of whom he was very possessive is so poor she has to go out and work in the family town of Zarqa. Hence the name Zarqawi. I don't know if al-Zarqawi is alive or exists at the moment. I don't know if he isn't a sort of creature invented in order to fill in the narrative gaps, so to speak. What is going on in Iraq at the moment is extremely mysterious. I go to Iraq and I can't crack this story at the moment. Some of my colleagues are still trying to, but can't do it. It's not as simple as it looks. I don't believe we've got all these raving lunatics wandering around blowing up mosques. There's much more to this than meets the eye. All of these death squads that move around are part of the security forces. In some cases they are Shiite security forces or clearly Sunni security forces. When the Iraqi army go into Sunni cities they are Shiite soldiers going in. We are not making this clear. Iraqi troops, we've got an extra battalion. The Iraqi army is building up. The Iraqi army is split apart. Somebody is operating these people. I don't know who they are. It's not as simple as we're making it out to be. What is this thing when Bush says we have to choose between chaos and unity? Who wants to choose chaos? Is it really the case that all of these Iraqis that fought together for eight years against the Iranians, Shiites and Sunnies together in the long massive murderous Somme-like war between the Iranians and Iraqis - suddenly all want to kill each other? Why because that's something wrong with Iraqis? I don't think so. They are intelligent, educated people. Something is going seriously wrong in Baghdad.
TONY JONES: Can we look at one thing that might possibly be wrong, the Sunnis feel like they are being left out of the political equation. The Shias could end up running the majority of the government because they are indeed in the majority in a democracy.
ROBERT FISK: They do run the Government now. The Shiites do run the Government.
TONY JONES: Indeed. Couldn't that precisely be one of the reasons for the violence?
ROBERT FISK: Because the Sunnis don't have power anymore? But we've been saying this if the start. Don't you remember that after 2003 the Anglo-American invasion, the resistance started against the Americans and we were told they were Saddam remnants, 'dead-enders', that was the phrase used. Not anymore, because there are 40,000 insurgents, but that was the phase used at the time. They were Sunnis. They didn't like the fact they didn't have power. Then we captured Saddam and Paul Bremer, the number two pro-Consule in Baghdad, says, "Oh, we've got him," and everything was going to be OK. And then the insurgency got worse still. The reason was because people who wanted to join the insurgency feared that if they beat him out he might come back. Well, the moment Saddam was captured, they knew they could join the insurgency and Saddam wouldn't come back. I mean, there is something wrong in the narrative sequence that we've been given. You know, the idea that the Sunni community is suddenly sacrificing themselves en mass, strapping explosive belts to themselves and blowing themselves up all over Iraq because they don't have power anymore is a very odd reflection. I think what is going on among the Sunni community is much simpler. The Sunnis are not fighting the Americans because they don't have power and they're not fighting the Americans just to get them out - and they will get them out eventually. They are fighting the Americans so that they will say, "We have a right to power because we fought the occupying forces and you, the Shiites, did not," which is why it's very important to discover now that Moqtada al-Sadr, who has an ever-increasing power base among the Shiite community, is himself threatening to fight the British and Americans. Now, if the Shiites and Sunnies come together, as they did in the 1920s in the insurgency against the British, then we are finished in Iraq. And that will mean that Iraq actually will be united.
TONY JONES: But, Robert Fisk, what's is happening now, by all accounts and, indeed, the accounts of these Washington Post reporters who've been into the morgue and report hundreds of bodies of Sunnies who evidently have been garroted or suffocated or shot, are all saying that Moqtada al-Sadr's thugs have actually taken these people away and murdered them. That was in revenge for the Golden Shrine bombing.
ROBERT FISK: Yeah, look, in August, I went into the same mortuary and found out that 1,000 people had died in one month in July. And most of those people who had died were split 50/50 between the Sunnies and the Shiites, but most of them, including women who'd been blindfolded and hands tied behind their backs - I saw the corpses - were both Sunnies and Shiites. Now, I'm not complaining that the Washington Post got it wrong - I'm sure there are massacres going on by Shiites - but I think they are going on by militias on both sides. What I'd like to know is who is running the Interior Ministry? Who is paying the Interior Ministry? Who is paying the gunmen who work for the Interior Ministry? I go into the Interior Ministry in Baghdad and I see lots and lots of armed men wearing black leather. Who is paying these guys? Well, we are, of course. The money isn't falling out of the sky. It's coming from the occupation powers and Iraqi's Government, which we effectively run because, as we know, they can't even create a constitution without the American and British ambassadors being present. We need to look at this story in a different light. That narrative that we're getting - that there are death squads and that the Iraqis are all going to kill each other, the idea that the whole society is going to commit mass suicide - is not possible, it's not logical. There is something else going on in Iraq. Don't ask me to...
TONY JONES: Alright. But...
ROBERT FISK: Yeah, go on.
TONY JONES: No, it does seem to be impossible to explain, but, of course, this is exactly what people were saying in Bosnia before that war started up - that people were too intermarried, that you couldn't separate the community.
ROBERT FISK: Iraqi is not Bosnia. Iraqi is not Bosnia. Iraqi is not Bosnia. Iraqi is not Bosnia. We discovered here in Lebanon - and this city I'm talking to you from - that, during the civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990 and killed 150,000 people, that there were many outside powers involved in promoting death squads and militias here, and paying militias, not just Arab powers, but European powers were involved in stirring the pot in Lebanon. I think we're being very naive. Just because I can't give you the detail, like, of who ordered this death squad, doesn't prevent us saying that something is wrong with the narrative we're being given the press, from the West, from the Americans, from the Iraqi Government. There is something going wrong. Iraqis are not suicidal people. They don't go around blowing up mosques every day. It's not a natural thing for them to do. It's never happened before. I can't say to you, "Well, ok, here is the person who killed this person, or here's the person who left this explosive truck." All I am saying to you is that it is time we said, "Hang on a minute, this is not how it looks."
TONY JONES: What if you put Iran into this equation, because, as we all know, Iran is under tremendous pressure from the West and particularly from the United States at the moment. It has links to these Shia militias and, possibly, links too, to these people you are talking about in the Interior Ministry.
ROBERT FISK: No, no, no, that's wrong. The Iranians link is with the Iraqi Government. The main parties in the government of Iraq which have been elected, who are there now dealing with the Americans, these are the representatives of Iran. Moqtada al-Sadr is irrelevant to Iran. Iranians are already effectively controlling Iraq because the two major power blocks, the two major parties who were elected and who Bush has just been talking to, these are effectively the representatives of Tehran. That's the point. Iran doesn't need to get involved in violence in Iraq.
TONY JONES: Unless the pressure from the United States ratchets up on Iran to the point where there are military threats against these nuclear facilities. Could it not therefore create havoc in Iraq?
ROBERT FISK: Well, you could say the same about Syria, too, couldn't you? And, of course the Americans are also accusing Syria of supporting the insurgents or letting them cross the border. But I think it it's much more complicated than that. For example, my sources in this area, who are pretty good, tell me that the Americans have already talked to the Syrians and are trying to do a deal with them to try and get the Syrians to help them over the insurgency and the price of Syria's help, I'm told, is that the Americans will ease off on the UN committee of inquiry into the murder of ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri, here in Beirut, only a few hundred metres from here, on the 14th February last year. You know, if the Americans are going to get out of Iraq - and they must get out, they will - they need the help of Iran and Syria. And I think you'll find that certain elements within the State Department are already trying to work on that. Now, we hear the rhetoric coming from Bush. I mean, he's got an absolute black-hole chaos in Iraq, he's got Afghanistan - not an inspiration to the world, it's been taken over effectively by narco warlords, many who work for Karzai, the man who's just been making jokes about the Afghan welcome for Bush - and Bush wants another conflict with Iran? I don't think the Americans are in any footing or any ability, military or otherwise, to have another war or to have another crisis in that region. They're in the deepest hole politically, militarily and economically in Iraq. The fact that the White House and the Pentagon and the State Department seem to be in a state of denial doesn't change that. We had Condoleezza Rice here - literally in that building behind me - a few days ago saying that there are great changes taking place in the Middle East - optimistically. Well, sure, there is a mosque war going on in Iraq with the Americans up to their feet in the sand, there's an Iranian crisis, or so we're told, the Saudis are frightened the Iraq war will spill over into Saudi Arabia, the Egyptians don't know how to reconcile Syria and Lebanon, there are increasing sectarian tensions here in Lebanon. You would think that someone is building what used to be called Potemkin villages, you know, these extraordinary things that Catherine the Great's court favourites use to build, facades of villages, so that everything looked nice in Russia even though things were barbarous behind the facades. I mean, this is a barbarous world we're living in now in the Middle East. It's never been so dangerous here, either for journalists or soldiers but most of all for Arabs. Hence the thousands of people in the mortuary.
TONY JONES: Robert Fisk, I am afraid we are out of time. We'll have to leave it there and the rest of the discussion on Iran, I suspect, we'll have to have when you're in Australia in the near future. Good luck in Beirut.
ROBERT FISK: (Laughs) Good place to have it! You're welcome.
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Flashback: Who's Blowing Up Iraq?
By Mike Whitney
Information Clearing House
New evidence that bombs are being planted by British Commandos. The primary aim of the Pentagon's "Strategic Information" program is to distort the truth in a way that controls the storyline created by the media.
"The Iraqi security officials on Monday variously accused two Britons they detained of shooting at Iraqi forces or TRYING TO PLANT EXPLOSIVES." Washington Post, Ellen Knickmeyer, 9-20-05; "British Smash into Jail to Free Two Detained Soldiers"
In more than two years since the United States initiated hostilities against Iraq, there has never been a positive identification of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
That doesn't mean that he doesn't exist; it simply suggests that prudent people will challenge the official version until his whereabouts and significance in the conflict can be verified.
At present, much of the rationale for maintaining the occupation depends on this elusive and, perhaps, illusory figure. It's odd how Al-Zarqawi appears at the precise coordinates of America's bombing-raids, and then, miraculously vanishes unscathed from the scene of the wreckage. This would be a remarkable feat for anyone, but especially for someone who only has one leg.
Al-Zarqawi may simply be a fantasy dreamed up by Pentagon planners to put a threatening face on the Iraqi resistance. The Defense Dept has been aggressive in its effort to shape information in a way that serves the overall objectives of the occupation. The primary aim of the Pentagon's "Strategic Information" program is to distort the truth in a way that controls the storyline created by the media. Al-Zarqawi fits perfectly within this paradigm of intentional deception.
The manipulation of information factors heavily in the steady increase of Iraqi casualties, too. Although the military refuses "to do body counts"; many people take considerable interest in the daily death toll.
Last week, over 200 civilians were killed in seemingly random acts of violence purportedly caused by al-Zarqawi. But, were they?
Were these massive attacks the work of al-Zarqawi as the western media reports or some other "more shadowy" force?
One member of the Iraqi National Assembly. Fatah al-Sheikh, stated, "It seems that the American forces are trying to escalate the situation in order to make the Iraqi people suffer.. There is a huge campaign for the agents of the foreign occupation to enter and plant hatred between the sons of the Iraqi people, and spread rumors in order to scare the one from the other. The occupiers are trying to start religious incitement and if it does not happen, then they will try to start an internal Shiite incitement."
Al-Sheikh's feelings are shared by a great many Iraqis. They can see that everything the US has done, from the forming a government made up predominantly of Shi'ites and Kurds, to creating a constitution that allows the breaking up to the country (federalism), to using the Peshmerga and Badr militia in their attacks on Sunni cities, to building an Interior Ministry entirely comprised of Shi'ites, suggests that the Pentagon's strategy is to fuel the sectarian divisions that will lead to civil war. Al-Zarqawi is an integral facet of this broader plan. Rumsfeld has cast the Jordanian as the agent-provocateur; the driving force behind religious partition and antagonism.
But, al-Zarqawi has nothing to gain by killing innocent civilians, and everything to lose. If he does actually operate in Iraq, he needs logistical supporting all his movements; including help with safe-houses, assistants, and the assurance of invisibility in the community. ("The ocean in which he swims") These would disappear instantly if he recklessly killed and maimed innocent women and children.
Last week the Imam of Baghdad's al-Kazimeya mosque, Jawad al-Kalesi said, that "al-Zarqawi is dead but Washington continues to use him as a bogeyman to justify a prolonged military occupation..He's simply an invention by the occupiers to divide the people." Al-Kalesi added that al-Zarqawi was killed in the beginning of the war in the Kurdish north and that "His family in Jordan even held a ceremony after his death." (AFP)
Most Iraqis probably agree with al-Kalesi, but that hasn't deterred the Pentagon from continuing with the charade. This is understandable given that al-Zarqawi is the last tattered justification for the initial invasion. It's doubtful that the Pentagon will ditch their final threadbare apology for the war. But the reality is vastly different from the spin coming from the military. In fact, foreign fighters play a very small role in Iraq with or without al-Zarqawi. As the Center for Strategic and International Studies
(CSIS) revealed this week in their report, "Analysts and government officials in the US and Iraq overstated the size of the foreign element in the Iraqi insurgency.. Iraqi fighters made up less than 10% of the armed groups' ranks, perhaps, even half of that." The report poignantly notes that most of the foreign fighters were not previously militants at all, but were motivated by, "revulsion at the idea of an Arab land being occupied by a non-Arab country."
The report concludes that the invasion of Iraq has added thousands of "fresh recruits to Osama bin Laden's network;" a fact that is no longer in dispute among those who have studied the data on the topic.
The al-Zarqawi phantasm is a particularly weak-link in the Pentagon's muddled narrative. The facts neither support the allegations of his participation nor prove that foreigners are a major contributor to the ongoing violence. Instead, the information points to a Defense establishment that cannot be trusted in anything it says and that may be directly involved in the terrorist-bombings that have killed countless thousands of Iraqi civilians.
Regrettably, that is prospect that can't be ignored. After all, no one else benefits from the slaughter.
(Note: Since this article was written, the Washington Post has added to our suspicions. In an Ellen Knickmeyer article "British Smash into Iraqi Jail to free 2 detained Soldiers" 9-20-05, Knickmeyer chronicles the fighting between British forces and Iraqi police who were detaining 2 British commandos. "THE IRAQI SECURITY OFFICIALS ON MONDAY VARIOUSLY ACCUSED THE TWO BRITONS THEY DETAINED OF SHOOTING AT IRAQI FORCES or TRYING TO PLANT EXPLOSIVES."
Is this why the British army was ordered to "burst through the walls of an Iraqi jail Monday in the southern city of Basra".followed by "British armored vehicles backed by helicopter gun-ships" ending in "hours of gun battles and rioting in Basra's streets"? (Washington Post)
Reuters reported that "half a dozen armored vehicles had smashed into the jail" and the provincial governor, Mohammed Walli, told news agencies that the British assault was "barbaric, savage and irresponsible."
So, why were the British so afraid to go through the normal channels to get their men released?
Could it be that the two commandos were "trying to plant explosives" as the article suggests?
An interview on Syrian TV last night also alleges that the British commandos "were planting explosives in one of the Basra streets".
"Al-Munajjid] In fact, Nidal, this incident gave answers to questions and suspicions that were lacking evidence about the participation of the occupation in some armed operations in Iraq. Many analysts and observers here had suspicions that the occupation was involved in some armed operations against civilians and places of worship and in the killing of scientists. But those were only suspicions that lacked proof. The proof came today through the arrest of the two British soldiers while they were planting explosives in one of the Basra streets. This proves, according to observers, that the occupation is not far from many operations that seek to sow sedition and maintain disorder, as this would give the occupation the justification to stay in Iraq for a longer period.
[Zaghbur] Ziyad al-Munajjaid in Baghdad, thank you very much. Copyright Syrian Arab TV and BBC Monitoring, 2005"
And then there was this on Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, 9-19-05; Interview with Fattah al-Shaykh, member of the National Assembly and deputy for Basra.
."the sons of Basra caught two non-Iraqis, who seem to be Britons and were in a car of the Cressida type. It was a booby-trapped car laden with ammunition and was meant to explode in the centre of the city of Basra in the popular market. However, the sons of the city of Basra arrested them. They [the two non-Iraqis] then fired at the people there and killed some of them. The two arrested persons are now at the Intelligence Department in Basra, and they were held by the National Guard force, but the British occupation forces are still surrounding this department in an attempt to absolve them of the crime."
Copyright Al Jazeera TV and BBC Monitoring, 2005 (Thanks to Michel Chossudovsky at Global Research for the quotes from Al Jazeera and Syrian TV)
Does this solve the al-Zarqawi mystery? Are the bombs that are killing so many Iraqi civilians are being planted by British and American Intelligence?
We'll have to see if this damning story can be corroborated by other sources.
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Flashback: The farcical end of the American dream - The US press is supposed to be challenging the lies of this war
By Robert Fisk
18 Mar 06
It is a bright winter morning and I am sipping my first coffee of the day in Los Angeles. My eye moves like a radar beam over the front page of the Los Angeles Times for the word that dominates the minds of all Middle East correspondents: Iraq. In post-invasion, post-Judith Miller mode, the American press is supposed to be challenging the lies of this war. So the story beneath the headline "In a Battle of Wits, Iraq's Insurgency Mastermind Stays a Step Ahead of US" deserves to be read. Or does it?
Datelined Washington - an odd city in which to learn about Iraq, you might think - its opening paragraph reads: "Despite the recent arrest of one of his would-be suicide bombers in Jordan and some top aides in Iraq, insurgency mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi has eluded capture, US authorities say, because his network has a much better intelligence-gathering operation than they do."
Now quite apart from the fact that many Iraqis - along, I have to admit, with myself - have grave doubts about whether Zarqawi exists, and that al-Qai'da's Zarqawi, if he does exist, does not merit the title of "insurgency mastermind", the words that caught my eye were "US authorities say". And as I read through the report, I note how the Los Angeles Times sources this extraordinary tale. I thought American reporters no longer trusted the US administration, not after the mythical weapons of mass destruction and the equally mythical connections between Saddam and the international crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001. Of course, I was wrong.
Here are the sources - on pages one and 10 for the yarn spun by reporters Josh Meyer and Mark Mazzetti: "US officials said", "said one US Justice Department counter-terrorism official", "Officials ... said", "those officials said", "the officials confirmed", "American officials complained", "the US officials stressed", "US authorities believe", "said one senior US intelligence official", "US officials said", "Jordanian officials ... said" - here, at least is some light relief - "several US officials said", "the US officials said", "American officials said", "officials say", "say US officials", "US officials said", "one US counter-terrorism official said".
I do truly treasure this story. It proves my point that the Los Angeles Times - along with the big east coast dailies - should all be called US OFFICIALS SAY. But it's not just this fawning on political power that makes me despair. Let's move to a more recent example of what I can only call institutionalised racism in American reporting of Iraq. I have to thank reader Andrew Gorman for this gem, a January Associated Press report about the killing of an Iraqi prisoner under interrogation by US Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jnr.
Mr Welshofer, it transpired in court, had stuffed the Iraqi General Abed Hamed Mowhoush head-first into a sleeping bag and sat on his chest, an action which - not surprisingly - caused the general to expire. The military jury ordered - reader, hold your breath - a reprimand for Mr Welshofer, the forfeiting of $6,000 of his salary and confinement to barracks for 60 days. But what caught my eye was the sympathetic detail. Welshofer's wife's Barbara, the AP told us, "testified that she was worried about providing for their three children if her husband was sentenced to prison. 'I love him more for fighting this,' she said, tears welling up in her eyes. 'He's always said that you need to do the right thing, and sometimes the right thing is the hardest thing to do'".
Yes, I guess torture is tough on the torturer. But try this from the same report: "Earlier in the day ... Mr Welshofer fought back tears. 'I deeply apologise if my actions tarnish the soldiers serving in Iraq,' he said."
Note how the American killer's remorse is directed not towards his helpless and dead victim but to the honour of his fellow soldiers, even though an earlier hearing had revealed that some of his colleagues watched Welshofer stuffing the general into the sleeping bag and did nothing to stop him. An earlier AP report stated that "officials" - here we go again - "believed Mowhoush had information that would 'break the back of the insurgency'." Wow. The general knew all about 40,000 Iraqi insurgents. So what a good idea to stuff him upside down inside a sleeping bag and sit on his chest.
But the real scandal about these reports is we're not told anything about the general's family. Didn't he have a wife? I imagine the tears were "welling up in her eyes" when she was told her husband had been done to death. Didn't the general have children? Or parents? Or any loved ones who "fought back tears" when told of this vile deed? Not in the AP report he didn't. General Mowhoush comes across as an object, a dehumanised creature who wouldn't let the Americans "break the back" of the insurgency after being stuffed headfirst into a sleeping bag.
Now let's praise the AP. On an equally bright summer's morning in Australia a few days ago I open the Sydney Morning Herald. It tells me, on page six, that the news agency, using the Freedom of Information Act, has forced US authorities to turn over 5,000 pages of transcripts of hearings at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. One of them records the trial of since-released British prisoner Feroz Abbasi, in which Mr Abbasi vainly pleads with his judge, a US air force colonel, to reveal the evidence against him, something he says he has a right to hear under international law.
And here is what the American colonel replied: "Mr Abbasi, your conduct is unacceptable and this is your absolute final warning. I do not care about international law. I do not want to hear the words international law. We are not concerned about international law."
Alas, these words - which symbolise the very end of the American dream - are buried down the story. The colonel, clearly a disgrace to the uniform he wears, does not appear in the bland headline ("US papers tell Guantanamo inmates' stories") of the Sydney paper, more interested in telling us that the released documents identify by name the "farmers, shopkeepers or goatherds" held in Guantanamo.
I am now in Wellington, New Zealand, watching on CNN Saddam Hussein's attack on the Baghdad court trying him. And suddenly, the ghastly Saddam disappears from my screen. The hearing will now proceed in secret, turning this drumhead court into even more of a farce. It is a disgrace. And what does CNN respectfully tell us? That the judge has "suspended media coverage"!
If only, I say to myself, CNN - along with the American press - would do the same.
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Indonesia hit by strong quake
ABC Asia Pacific TV / Radio Australia
An earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale has struck Indonesia off the western coast of Sumatra island.
The quake was centred 420 kilometres south-southeast of Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province.
The Hong Kong observatory says there have been no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
Four other earthquakes have occurred off the west coast of northern Sumatra in the past week.
A massive earthquake in the region on December 26, 2004 triggered a tsunami that devastated coastlines around the Indian Ocean and left more than 220,000 people dead.
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Sinkhole opens big mystery in Placer
By M.S. Enkoji, Edie Lau and Cathy Locke
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Gerry Chellew and his wife, Melinda, were in Roseville, driving home from Palm Springs, where they had just celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary. It was Friday night. Their cell phone rang.
The news was mind-numbing: The ground under their house in Alta in the Sierra foothills had collapsed. Gerry Chellew instantly wondered if somehow he was at fault, having remodeled the family home to add quarters for his son and pregnant daughter-in-law. Worse still, he realized the couple were at home.
What Chellew didn't know was that his craftsmanship had nothing to do with the freak occurrence that had just killed his only son. The culprit was a mysterious 10-by-10-foot sinkhole that would continue growing deeper and wider for days.
When the creaking started, Pei-Hua Sun "Kathy" Chellew, 30, was asleep in a bedroom upstairs. Jason Chellew, 32, her husband, was in the living room and tried to bolt, but the floor suddenly opened up, swallowing him into an ever-widening pit and burying him under feet of debris.
"I knew he was gone," Kathy Chellew, told reporters at a press conference Monday. "I want to believe this happened for a good cause, a good reason."
Expecting their first child, Kathy Chellew, who is four months pregnant, had been awakened by a piece of roof that fell on her head. A glass window imploded as well.
For the next five minutes, she yelled for her husband. There was no answer.
She realized that if she tried to climb into the hole she wouldn't be able to make it out alive. Instead, Kathy Chellew scrambled out the bedroom window and rushed to a neighbor's house for help.
Rescuers, struggling on unstable ground, were unable to recover Chellew's body until late Sunday. By that time, the pit bottomed out at 20 feet deep, with a diameter that had more than doubled to 30 feet.
At an afternoon news conference, the family described Jason Chellew. He was a graduate student in psychology at California State University, Sacramento, and had served in the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan. He and Kathy met when he spent five years teaching at a private school in Taipei, Taiwan. They were married March 12, 2005, in Taiwan and came to the United States last July.
Melinda Chellew, Jason's mother, said her son had a soft heart for animals. She displayed a photo of her son with an elephant at Marine World Africa USA in Vallejo, where he worked as an apprentice elephant trainer from 1991 to 1994. He especially loved dogs, and had six of them. One is believed to have perished with him.
Placer County Sheriff's Lt. Rich Tornberg, one of the commanders for the recovery effort, said urban search and rescue teams initially determined the house was too unstable to allow recovery of the body until the house was torn down. He said they had removed most of the household contents from the upstairs to lighten the load on the house. Only then did a team with sensitive monitors determine that the underpinnings were adequate enough to allow the body to be removed.
Speculation on what could have caused part of the house to suddenly sink continued to grow Monday, but scientists and historians said the evidence strongly points to a man-made cause - remnants of the region's mining past that honeycomb the region.
"What you can say is that it would not be surprising if it is proved that a mining shaft or tunnel was involved because the history of the entire Nary Red Placer mining claim is of a series of hydraulic and drift mining," said Douglas Ferrier, a forestry consultant and regional history buff.
The Chellews' property falls within the 224-acre Nary Red Gold Placer Mining Claim, said Ferrier. His research shows it was mined from about 1860 intermittently into the 1940s.
As the story goes, the Nary Red was so named because it produced very little of value - or "nary a red cent," Ferrier said. For those who live in mined portions of Placer County, the perils of mining have always been a part of life.
In such heavily wooded areas with mostly single-family homes, Gold County dwellers are often reminded of the area's roots. Parents have been known to band together to fill in mining sinkholes that appear, sometimes after heavy rain seasons.
"I think people are more shocked than concerned about whether it could happen again," said Thomas Warwick, 62, who lives a few blocks from the Chellews' home. "I just can't imagine anyone ever dying like this."
Growing up in the area during the 1950s, Warwick, 62, remembers his parents warning him to watch for mine shafts.
According to the latest estimate of the Abandoned Mine Lands Unit, an arm of the state Department of Conservation, 84 percent of California's 47,000 abandoned mines present physical safety hazards.
In the past three to four years, the state has worked to reduce hazards at about 216 such sites, often by plugging the openings, said Doug Craig, assistant director of the state Office of Mine Reclamation.
For private property owners, there is little that regulators can do in the way of warning them.
Bill Schulze, Placer County's chief building official, said the county doesn't study whether mines run beneath home building sites. "We don't have any policies for homes because we don't have good maps or access to that information," Schulze said.
He said that some maps of tunnels near the Alta house exist, but that they probably aren't accurate: "I don't think those old maps include everything."
Whenever a sinkhole forms in the United States, the telephone usually rings in the office of David Weary or his colleagues at the U.S. Geological Survey headquarters in Reston, Va.
"If you want to speculate, this house (in Placer County) probably had a void that's been opening up under the slab, and maybe this latest bout of rainy weather could have been the straw that broke the camel's back," Weary said.
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Chernobyl horror remembered
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Bells tolled across Ukraine and the families of victims carried red carnations and candles Wednesday to mark the 20-year anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl.
The April 26, 1986, pre-dawn explosion which spewed radioactive contamination across whole swathes of Europe was being marked in Ukraine with daylong events on a day of national mourning.
"Today's ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the accident do not, unfortunately, mean we can say farewell to Chernobyl," parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said at a special session of the chamber devoted to the anniversary.
"It will remain with the Ukrainian people for more than one generation to come."
The Chernobyl disaster cast a radioactive shadow over the health of millions of people. Many also say it contributed to the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.
On Wednesday, hundreds of people -- each bearing a candle and some with red carnations -- filed slowly through the streets of Slavutych, the town built to house the Chernobyl plant's workers after the world's worst nuclear accident.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko flew over the crumbling concrete-and-steel shell that covers the damaged reactor before a visit to a nearby memorial to the victims in Chernobyl.
"Let God not allow this to be repeated, let God not make our grandsons relive this," said Valentyna Mashina, 55, standing near the monument.
At 1:23 a.m. Moscow time (2123 GMT) -- the time of the explosion and subsequent fire that sent a plume of radiation billowing throughout Europe -- a minute of silence was observed.
A bell tolled and alarm sirens blared. Moscow time had been in use at the plant at the time.
Meanwhile in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, Yushchenko mourned hundreds at a ceremony in a church dedicated to Cherbnobyl victims.
"My friends were dying under my eyes," Konstantyn Sokolov, 68, a former Chernobyl worker whose voice was hoarse from throat and lip cancer, told The Associated Press at the service.
"I try not to recollect my memories," Sokolov said as Orthodox priests led the mourners in a somber procession. "They are very terrible."
Death tolls connected to the blast are still keenly debated. At least 31 people died as a direct result of trying to keep the fire from spreading to the plant's three other operating reactors.
One plant worker was killed instantly and his body has never been recovered. Twenty-nine rescuers, firefighters and plant workers died later from radiation poisoning and burns, and another person died of an apparent heart attack
Mykola Malyshev, 66, was working in the control room of Chernobyl's Reactor No. 1 at the time of the explosion.
He told AP at the Kiev service the lights flickered and the room shook. The workers were ordered to the destroyed reactor, but when they got there, their co-workers ordered them to flee and save themselves.
"They told us, 'We are already dead. Go away,"' Malyshev recalled at the Kiev ceremony.
The blast in Chernobyl's fourth reactor -- during an unexplained experiment -- contaminated large swathes of territory in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Later rain brought contamination from the radioactive plume to Scandinavia, Wales, England and Scotland.
Soviet authorities took two days to inform the world and their own people.
They then launched feverish clean-up and reconstruction efforts culminating in construction of a concrete casing to entomb the wrecked reactor.
Thousands suffered health problems from the radiation and the "sarcophagus" encasing the reactor now needs replacing -- an undertaking likely to cost millions of dollars.
Nuclear power, out of favor for years after the accident, is now making a comeback as governments like the United States and China seek cleaner and cheaper alternatives to oil and gas.
Estimates of the total death toll linked to Chernobyl vary widely.
The World Health Organization puts at 9,000 the number of people expected to die due to radiation exposure, while the environmental group Greenpeace predicts an eventual death toll of 93,000.
Hundreds of thousands were evacuated. The United Nations says 7 million still live on land with unsafe radiation levels.
Because of still-high radiation levels, the zone is deserted except for a few elderly residents who refused to leave, Reuters reported. Trees now grow inside some apartment blocks.
In some cases they were equipped with only shovels and gas masks. Some died immediately, others later from massive doses of radiation.
Yushchenko has appealed to foreign donors to help Ukraine replace the concrete casing hastily built around the reactor after the disaster, which is now leaking.
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the anniversary was a reminder of the need for a common approach to nuclear safety, especially as many countries are planning to build new reactors.
U.S. President George W. Bush paid tribute to "lives lost and communities hurt in the devastation."
Pope Benedict at his general audience Wednesday paid tribute to the Chernobyl victims and urged world leaders should see to it that energy was used only for peaceful purposes and was environmentally safe. "We still today pray for the victims of a calamity of such vast proportions and for those who are still bearing the scars on their bodies," he said. The pope asked God to "enlighten those who are responsible for the fate of humanity, so that with a united effort, all energy is placed in the service of peace, with full respect of the needs of man and of nature."
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Police break up anti-nuclear Red Square protest
Wed Apr 26, 4:54 AM ET
MOSCOW - Russian police on Wednesday dragged away activists protesting on Red Square against atomic power on the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.
Thirteen young protesters from Greenpeace chained themselves to railings around St Basil's Cathedral, a central Moscow landmark famous for its multicoloured onion domes, before plain clothes agents told them to move on.
Unsanctioned protests are forbidden on Red Square, which was a favorite gathering place for Soviet dissidents. The leather-jacketed agents and uniformed Kremlin guards used bolt cutters to unchain the activists, whom they dragged away.
The 13 activists were wearing yellow t-shirts with individual letters that, when taken together, spelled out "No to Chernobyls" in a reflection of green groups' opposition to world plans to build a new generation of nuclear reactors.
Russia is planning 40 more reactors, and is still using 11 reactors of the type used at Chernobyl, which was the world's worst civilian nuclear disaster, spewing radiation across Europe.
The agents also led away photographers and cameramen filming the protest. "They said they were not detaining us, just taking us away for a conversation," one photographer said.
The main events marking the anniversary of the disaster are taking place in Ukraine -- home to the remains of the power station's fourth reactor which contaminated swathes of territory in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
Concerns over soaring global energy needs and security of fossil fuel supply have put nuclear power back at the heart of the global energy debate despite the risk of Chernobyl-like disasters and the nuclear waste that humanity will bequeath to future generations.
Both Russia and the United States have called on fellow industrialized powers to embrace nuclear energy to guarantee stable supplies and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
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Mumps outbreak spreads to Colorado
4/25/2006 2:06 PM MST
DENVER - The first case of mumps connected with a nationwide outbreak was confirmed in Colorado.
Tuesday the State Department of Health confirmed the first outbreak of mumps in Colorado. April 25, 2006. 5:00 p.m.
On Monday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said a 45-year-old woman from Douglas County became ill with the mumps on April 14, after making two car trips to Iowa.
The recent outbreak of mumps started in Iowa and then spread to surrounding states including Nebraska and Kansas. There are now more than 1,100 cases in Iowa alone.
The Colorado woman who became sick was visiting a sick family member in Iowa who did not have the mumps.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says the woman stayed home from work for the recommended nine days after she became ill. The health department says she was not hospitalized; has not had any complications; and her doctor says it is okay for her to return to work.
The case is the first to test positive out of 25 suspected cases in Colorado. A statewide watch of the disease has stepped up since the outbreak in Iowa.
Colorado normally has three-to-four cases of mumps every year. There were six cases in 2005 and three so far this year, including the newly confirmed case.
Mumps incubates for about 16-18 days before symptoms start to show up. The symptoms include: swelling of the salivary glands in the face or neck, muscle pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, headache, and a fever. People are usually sick for three to 10 days.
The state health department recommends that children get their first measles, mumps and rubella immunization between the ages of 12-24 months, and the second between 4 and 6-years-old. If there are teenagers or college students in Colorado who have not had both immunizations, the state health department says they should get them now.
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Six S.Africans tossed to their deaths off trains
April 26, 2006
JOHANNESBURG - South African police launched a hunt on Wednesday for a gang of men who stormed moving commuter trains, randomly attacked passengers and tossed six to their deaths.
A spokeswoman for train operator Metrorail said some of the six men had been stripped naked before being hurled out of the carriages in separate incidents near Johannesburg on Monday night.
"It really is a gruesome death," said spokeswoman Thandi Mlangeni. "If you'd seen pictures of the scene you'd really not be able to sleep."
She said the violence on a line between Johannesburg and the eastern suburb of Benoni appeared to be part of a string of apparently well orchestrated attacks on rail personnel, mostly security staff, this month.
A rail security guard was shot dead in the port city of Durban few days earlier and his naked body was found by the tracks, Mlangeni said.
Local newspaper reports suggested the attackers were from the South African transport workers union SATAWU, whose ongoing strike over pay has provoked a spate of violence in parts of the country in the past two weeks as union pickets try to enforce the stoppage.
Police confirmed the incident but would not be drawn on who were the perpetrators.
"One person has already been arrested and we are looking for others," police spokesman Superintendent Lungelo Dlamini said.
The security ministry said police had formed a task team to hunt down those behind the attack that has shocked many even in a country used to a daily diet of gory crime reports in national dailies. South Africa has one of the highest rates of crime in the world.
Metrorail, part of South Africa's state transport group Transnet, has been wrestling with security on its trains since irate commuters complaining about train delays routinely burned carriages late last year.
Mlangeni said the latest attack on Metrorail trains was scaring away many poor suburban commuters, most of whom depend on the cheaper rail service.
"In fact we encourage that at this point in time because we cannot 100 percent guarantee their safety," Mlangeni said, adding that personnel of private security companies contracted to Metrorail were part of the ongoing strike.
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59 Ingredients In Strawberry Milkshake - But No Strawberries
By Krissy Storrar
Amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethylpropionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphrenyl-2-butanone (10% solution in alcohol), ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylace-tophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphtyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, undecalactone, rum ether, rose, vanillin and solvent
WHEN is a strawberry milkshake not a strawberry milkshake? Answer, when it comes from a fast food outlet.
Order a shake with your burger and fries and rather than wholesome, sweet strawberries, crushed ice and a splash of ice-cold milk, what you'll end up with is a gloopy mixture of additives and E-numbers.
The closest thing to a plump strawberry in the milkshakes sold at McDonald's and Burger King is "artificial strawberry flavour" - concocted from a vast array of about 40 chemicals with tongue-twisting names.
One flavourist said: "Children's expectation of strawberry is completely different. They want something that is strong with something like bubblegum notes."
And none of the ingredients in the fast food shakes bear much resemblance to the healthy home-made version, according to Eric Schlosser, the author of the best-selling book Fast Food Nation.
They are made up of milkfat and non-fat milk, guar gum, cellulose gum, sodium phosphate, carrageenan, citric acid, E129, plus flavourings.
The sweet taste comes from sugar, sweet whey and high-fructose corn syrup.
The shocking findings were made by Eric as he researched his new book, Chew On This.
Published next month, it tackles the way fast food giants target children with their products and advertising.
Children are used in taste tests by experts, who have discovered that flavours in their foods are often twice as sweet as those marketed for adults.
The flavouring industry's work means that many children now prefer man-made tastes to fresh ones.
The book reveals the average processed strawberry milkshake is made up of a worrying list of chemicals. But, the alarming recipe has not reduced the amount of soft drinks people knock back.
In 1975, the typical American drank 120 litres of soft drinks every year, but that has now doubled to 240 litres.
And about a fifth of American youngsters between the ages of one and two slurp soft drinks every day.
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Fidel Ordered Chávez's 'Rescue'
Fidel Castro interviewed
by Ignacio Ramonet
25 Apri, 2006
In the book "Fidel Castro, a two-voiced biography," published by the Debate Publishing House, the Cuban president told Ignacio Ramonet information not previously released about the events of April 2002 in Venezuela.
Castro states that he phoned Miraflores Palace before Chávez surrendered and told him: "Don't kill yourself, Hugo. Don't do like Allende, who was a man alone. You have most of the Army on your side. Don't quit, don't resign."
Later, Fidel directed Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque, to fly to Caracas in one of two planes to pick up Chávez and fly him to safety.
Castro contacted "a general who sided with [Chávez]" to tell him that the world knew the president had not resigned and to ask the general to send troops to rescue the president.
Fidel Castro, who delivers so many speeches, has granted very few interviews. Only four long conversations with him have been published in the past 50 years. The fifth such interview, with the editor of Le Monde Diplomatique, Ignacio Ramonet, has become the book "Fidel Castro, a two-voiced biography," a summary of the life and thoughts of the Cuban chief of state, distilled from 100 hours of conversation. The first interview was held in late January 2003; the final one, in December 2005.
Published in these pages is an excerpt from the interview in which Castro talks about the Venezuelan conflict that occurred on April 11, 2002. As the Comandante says, he will remain in office "as long as the National Assembly, in the name of the Cuba people, wishes." The book, soon to appear, is published by the Debate Publishing House.
Progreso Weekly is pleased to translate and reproduce excerpts from the interview, published in Koeyú Latinoamericano.
Ignacio Ramonet (IR): You have said you feel a great admiration for Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela.
Fidel Castro (FC): Well, yes. There we have another Indian, Hugo Chávez, a new Indian who is, as he himself says, "an Indian mixture," mestizo, with a little white, he says. But you look at Chávez and you see an autochthonous son of Venezuela, the son of a Venezuela that itself is a mixture. But he has all those noble features and an exceptional, truly exceptional talent.
I make it a point to listen to his speeches. He feels proud of his humble origin, of his mixed ethnic background, which has a little of everything, mainly of those who were autochthonous people or slaves brought from Africa, with a mixture of Indian origin. That's the impression. Maybe he has some white genes, and that's not bad. The combination always is good, it enriches humanity, the combination of the so-called ethnic backgrounds.
IR: Have you followed closely the evolution of the situation in Venezuela, particularly the attempts to destabilize President Chávez?
FC: Yes, we have followed events with great attention. Chávez visited us after being released from prison before the 1998 elections. He was very brave, because he was much reproached for traveling to Cuba. He came here and we talked. We discovered an educated, intelligent man, very progressive, an authentic Bolivarian. Later he won the elections several times. He changed the Constitution. He had the formidable support of the people, of the humblest people. His adversaries have tried to asphyxiate him economically.
In the 40 famous years of "democracy" that preceded Chávez, I estimate that about $200 billion fled from the country. Venezuela could be more industrialized than Sweden and enjoy Sweden's levels of education, if in truth there had been a distributive democracy, if those mechanisms had worked, if there had been some truth and credibility in all that demagoguery and all that publicity.
From the time that Chávez took office until currency controls were established in January 2003, I estimate that about $30 billion flew out of the country -- capital flight. So, as we maintain, all those phenomena make the order of things unsustainable in our hemisphere.
IR: On April 11, 2002, there was a coup d'état against Chávez in Caracas.
Did you follow those events.
FC: When we learned that the demonstration by the opposition had changed direction and was nearing Miraflores [Palace], that there were provocations, shootings, victims, and that some high officials had mutinied and come out publicly against the president, that the presidential guard had withdrawn and that the army was on its way to arrest him, I phoned Chávez because I knew that he was defenseless and that he was a man of principle, and said to
him: "Don't kill yourself, Hugo! Don't do like Allende! Allende was a man alone, he didn't have a single soldier on his side. You have a large part of the army. Don't quit! Don't resign!"
IR: You were encouraging him to resist, gun in hand?
FC: No, on the contrary. That's what Allende did, and he paid heroically with his life. Chávez had three alternatives: To hunker down in Miraflores and resist to death; to call on the people to rebel and unleash a civil war; or to surrender without resigning, without quitting. We recommended the third choice, which was what he also had decided to do. Because history teaches us that every popular leader overthrown in those circumstances, if he's not killed the people claim him, and sooner or later he returns to power.
IR: At that moment, did you try to help Chávez somehow?
FC: Well, we could act only by using the resources of diplomacy. In the middle of the night we summoned all the ambassadors accredited to Havana and we proposed to them that they accompany Felipe [Pérez Roque], our Foreign Minister, to Caracas to rescue Chávez, the legitimate president of Venezuela. We proposed sending two planes to bring him here, in case the putschists decided to send him into exile.
Chávez had been imprisoned by the military putschists and his whereabouts were unknown. The television repeatedly reported the news of his "resignation" to demobilize his supporters, the people. But at one point, they allow Chávez to make a phone call and he manages to talk to his daughter, María Gabriela. And he tells her that he has not quit, that he has not resigned. That he is "a president under arrest." And he asks her to spread that news.
The daughter then has the bold idea to phone me and she informs me. She confirms to me that her father has not resigned. We then decided to assume the defense of the Venezuelan democracy, since we had proof that countries like the United States and Spain -- the government of José María Aznar -- who talk so much about democracy and criticize Cuba so much, were backing the coup d'état.
We asked María Gabriela to repeat it and recorded the conversation she had with Randy Alonso, the moderator of the Cuban TV program "Mesa Redonda"
[Round Table], which had great international repercussion. In addition, we summoned the entire foreign news media accredited to Cuba -- by then it must have been 4 o'clock in the morning -- we informed them and played them the testimony of Chávez's daughter. CNN broadcast it at once and the news spread like a flash of gunpowder throughout Venezuela.
IR: And what was the consequence of that?
FC: Well, that was heard by the military people faithful to Chávez, who had been deceived by the lie about a resignation, and then there is a contact with a general who is on Chávez's side. I talk to him on the phone. I confirm to him personally that what the daughter said is true and that the entire world knows Chávez has not resigned.
I talk with him a long time. He informs me about the military situation, about which high-ranking officers are siding with Chávez and which are not.
I understand that nothing is lost, because the best units of the Armed Forces, the most combative, the best trained, were in favor of Chávez. I tell that officer that the most urgent task is to find out where Chávez is being detained and to send loyal forces there to rescue him.
He then asks me to talk to his superior officer and turns me over to him. I repeat what Chávez's daughter has said, and stress that he continues to be the constitutional president. I remind him of the necessary loyalty, I talk to him about Bolívar and the history of Venezuela. And that high-ranking officer, in a gesture of patriotism and fidelity to the Constitution, asserts to me that, if it's true that Chávez has not resigned, he continues to be faithful to the president under arrest.
IR: But even at that moment nobody knows where Chávez is, true?
FC: Meanwhile, Chávez has been taken to the island of La Orchila. He is incommunicado. The Archbishop of Caracas goes to see him and counsels him to resign. "To avoid a civil war," he says. He commits humanitarian blackmail. He asks [Chávez] to write a letter saying he is resigning.
Chávez doesn't know what's happening in Caracas or the rest of the country. They've already tried to execute him, but the men in the firing squad have refused and threatened to mutiny. Many of the soldiers who guard Chávez are ready to defend him and to prevent his assassination. Chávez tries to gain time with the bishop. He writes drafts of a statement. He fears that once he finishes the letter, [his captors] will arrange to eliminate him. He has no intention of resigning. He declares that they'll have to kill him first. And that there will be no constitutional solution then.
IR: Meanwhile, was it still your intention to send planes to rescue him and take him into exile?
FC: No, after that conversation with the Venezuelan generals, we changed plans. We shelved Felipe's proposition to travel with the ambassadors to Caracas. What's more, shortly thereafter we hear a rumor that the putschists are proposing to expel Chávez to Cuba. And we immediately announce that if they send Chávez here, we shall send him back to Venezuela on the first available plane.
IR: How does Chávez return to power?
FC: Well, at one point we again get in contact with the first general with whom I had spoken and he informs me that they've located Chávez, that he's on the island of La Orchila. We talk about the best way to rescue him. With great respect, I recommend three basic steps: discretion, efficacy and overwhelming force. The parachutists from the base at Maracay, the best unit of the Venezuelan Armed Forces, who are faithful to Chávez, carry out the rescue.
Meanwhile, in Caracas, the people have mobilized, asking for Chávez's return. The presidential guard has reoccupied Miraflores [Palace] and also demands the president's return. It expels the putschists from the palace. Pedro Carmona, president of the management association and very temporary President-usurper of Venezuela, is almost arrested right there at the palace.
Finally, at dawn on April 14, 2002, rescued by the faithful soldiers, Chávez arrives in Miraflores amid a popular apotheosis. I almost did not sleep the two days of the Caracas coup, but it was worthwhile for me to see how a people, and also patriotic soldiers, defended the law. The tragedy of Chile in 1973 was not repeated.
IR: Chávez is a representative of the progressive armed forces, but in Europe and Latin America many progressives reproach him precisely because he is a military man. What opinion do you have about that apparent contradiction between progressiveness and the military?
FC: Look, in Venezuela we have an army playing an important role in the Bolivarian revolution. And Omar Torrijos, in Panama, was an example of a soldier with conscience. Juan Velasco Alvarado, in Peru, also carried out some notable acts of progress. Let's not forget, for example, that among the Brazilians, Luis Carlos Prestes was an officer who led a march in 1924-26 almost like the march led by Mao Zedong in 1934-35.
Jorge Amado wrote about the march of Luis Carlos Prestes in a beautiful story, "The Gentleman of Hope," one of his magnificent novels. I had an opportunity to read them all, and that march was something impressive. It lasted more than two and a half years, covering enormous territories in his country, and he never suffered defeat.
In other words, there were prowesses that came from the military. Let's say, I'm going to cite a Mexican military man, Lázaro Cárdenas, a general of the Mexican Revolution, who nationalized petroleum. He is very prominent, carries out agrarian reform and gains the support of the people. When one talks about affairs in Mexico, one mustn't forget the roles played by personalities like Lázaro Cárdenas. And Lázaro Cárdenas originated in the military.
One mustn't forget that the first people in Latin America to rise up in the 20th Century, in the 1950s, were a group of youths who rebelled, young Guatemalan officers, who gathered around Jacobo Arbenz and participated in revolutionary activities. Well, you can't say that's a general phenomenon but there are several cases of progressive military men.
In Argentina, Perón also came from military origins. You need to see the moment when he emerges. In 1943, he was appointed Minister of Labor and drafted such good laws that when he was taken to prison the people rescued him -- and he was a military chief. There was also a civilian who had influence over the military men, he studied in Italy, where Perón also had lived; he was Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, and they were popular leaders.
Perón was an embassy attaché. He worked in Rome in the 1930s during the Mussolini period and was impressed by some of the forms and methods of mass mobilization he witnessed. There was influence, including in some processes, but in those cases where I mention that influence, Gaitán and Perón used it in a positive sense, because the truth is that Perón carried out social reform.
Perón commits, let us say, a mistake. He offends the Argentine oligarchy, humiliates it, strips it of its symbolic theater and some symbolic institutions. He worked with the nation's reserves and resources and improved the living conditions of the workers. And the workers were very grateful, and Perón became an idol of the workers.
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Ark's Quantum Quirks
Signs of the Times
April 26, 2006
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Israel Lobby? Are You Anti-Semitic?
Molly Ivins: Pro-Israel 'Nutjobs' on the Attack
Apr. 25, 2006
By Molly Ivins
AUSTIN, Texas-One of the consistent deformities in American policy debate has been challenged by a couple of professors, and the reaction proves their point so neatly it's almost funny.
A working paper by John Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, called "The Israel Lobby" was printed in the London Review of Books earlier this month. And all hell broke loose in the more excitable reaches of journalism and academe.
For having the sheer effrontery to point out the painfully obvious-that there is an Israel lobby in the United States-Mearsheimer and Walt have been accused of being anti-Semitic, nutty and guilty of "kooky academic work." Alan Dershowitz, who seems to be easily upset, went totally ballistic over the mild, academic, not to suggest pretty boring article by Mearsheimer and Walt, calling them "liars" and "bigots."
Of course there is an Israeli lobby in America-its leading working group is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It calls itself "America's Pro-Israel Lobby," and it attempts to influence U.S. legislation and policy.
Several national Jewish organizations lobby from time to time. Big deal-why is anyone pretending this non-news requires falling on the floor and howling? Because of this weird deformity of debate.
In the United States, we do not have full-throated, full-throttle debate about Israel. In Israel, they have it as a matter of course, but the truth is that the accusation of anti-Semitism is far too often raised in this country against anyone who criticizes the government of Israel.
Being pro-Israel is no defense, as I long ago learned to my cost. Now I've gotten used to it. Jews who criticize Israel are charmingly labeled "self-hating Jews." As I have often pointed out, that must mean there are a lot of self-hating Israelis, because those folks raise hell over their own government's policies all the time.
I don't know that I've ever felt intimidated by the knee-jerk "you're anti-Semitic" charge leveled at anyone who criticizes Israel, but I do know I have certainly heard it often enough to become tired of it.
And I wonder if that doesn't produce the same result: giving up on the discussion.
It's the sheer disproportion and the vehemence of the denunciations of those perceived as criticizing Israel that make the attacks so odious. Mearsheimer and Walt are both widely respected political scientists-comparing their writing to "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is just silly.
Several critics have pointed out some flaws in the Mearsheimer-Walt paper, including a too-broad use of the term "Israel lobby"-those of us who are pro-Israel differ widely-and having perhaps overemphasized the clout of the Israel lobby by ignoring the energy lobby.
It seems to me the root of the difficulty has been Israel's inability first to admit the Palestinians have been treated unfairly and, second, to figure out what to do about it. Now here goes a big fat generalization, but I think many Jews are so accustomed (by reality) to thinking of themselves as victims, it is especially difficult for them to admit they have victimized others.
But the Mearsheimer-Walt paper is not about the basic conflict, but rather its effect on American foreign policy, and it appears to me the authors' arguments are unexceptional. Israel is the No. 1 recipient of American foreign aid, and it seems an easy case can be made that the United States has subjugated its own interests to those of Israel in the past.
Whether you agree or not, it is a discussion well worth having and one that should not be shut down before it can start by unfair accusations of "anti-Semitism." In a very equal sense, none of this is academic. The Israel lobby was overwhelmingly in favor of starting the war with Iraq and is now among the leading hawks on Iran.
To the extent that our interests do differ from those of Israel, the matter needs to be discussed calmly and fairly. This is not about conspiracies or plots or fantasies or anti-Semitism-it's about rational discussion of American interests. And, in my case, being pro-Israel. I'm looking forward to hearing from all you nutjobs again.
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Top White House posts go to Jews
After appointing Joshua Bolten to be the White House chief of staff, US President George W. Bush nominated another Jewish staffer, Joel Kaplan, to serve as Bolten's deputy, putting him in charge of the daily policy planning.
The fact that White House policy is now in the hands of two Jews is not seen as significant by activists in the American Jewish community.
"He is simply appointing the best people for the job," said Nathan Diament, who heads the Washington office of the Orthodox Union. Another Jewish activist added that he "wouldn't read too much into it."
Bolten, who first served as head of the Office of Management and Budget, was the first Jewish member of Bush's cabinet. Ever since Bush took office, there has been a custom of opening cabinet meetings with a brief prayer and so, before his first cabinet meeting, Bolten's assistant contacted Diament and asked for help in finding a Jewish prayer for the security and well-being of the cabinet members. The Orthodox Union provided him with the text in English and in Hebrew and Bolten read it aloud at the next cabinet meeting.
Bolten and Kaplan will probably be the most prominent Jewish members of the Bush administration, but not the only ones. Apart from Bolten, there is another Jewish cabinet member, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, and there are other Jewish senior staff members, including Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams and White House staffer Jay Lefkowitz.
In the past year, several Jews who were holding senior posts in the administration have left, among them deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz, undersecretary of defense Doug Feith, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby and political adviser Ken Mehlman, who now heads the Republican National Committee.
Yet the policy of the administration has little to do with the religious beliefs of the staffers. "The president sets the policy goals and it is now the job of Josh [Bolten] and Joel [Kaplan] to help achieve these goals," said Noam Neusner, who served as the liaison to the Jewish community in Bush's White House from 2002-2005.
Other Jewish activists, both Republican and Democrat, agree that the nomination of Bolten and Kaplan have no affect on policy.
For Republicans, there is still a feeling that Bush does not receive the credit he deserves from the Jewish community. "We have Israel's best friend and it still hasn't changed the way the Jewish community sees him," said Fred Zeidman, a close friend of Bush and chairman of the National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. "I keep hoping that one day our community will see the light and support President Bush."
Neusner recalled that in the Bush White House there was always great respect for religious practices of the staffers and predicted that this policy would remain now that Bolten is running its daily operations.
One tradition likely to go on is the reading of the Purim megilla led by Chabad Rabbi Levi Shemtov, which attracts many of the Jewish staffers.
The relatively small number of Jews in Bush's cabinet became an issue largely due to the comparison with his predecessor, Bill Clinton. The former administration had such Jewish cabinet members as Robert Reich, Robert Rubin, Sandy Berger, Lawrence Summers and Madeline Albright and State Department officials Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and Aaron Miller.
"I don't support this idea of bean counting," said Jay Footlik, who was Clinton's liaison to the Jewish community. He sees the fact that the former administration had many Jewish members as significant to the policy the president had in regard to the Jewish community. According to him, the reason Jews were so visible in Clinton's administration was merely a result of the community being "drawn to public involvement and political activity."
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Can we criticize Israel without being labeled anti-Semitic?
By Banks Albach
The shape of what's to come
A few weeks ago, the Financial Times ran an editorial titled, "Why can't we talk about Israel?" It's a fair question, though anyone that tries runs the risk of being labeled anti-Semitic.
The Times was commenting on a wave of claims of anti-Semitism that clobbered two professors and foreign policy scholars who wrote a paper criticizing America's unconditional support for Israel. In it John Mearshiemer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University claim that the Israeli lobby's influence on Congress is harmful to our foreign policy and this is major reason for Middle Eastern antagonism toward America.
It's no mystery that the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the largest Israeli lobby, wields enormous influence in Washington. According to it's Web site, "Through more than 2,000 meetings with members of - at home and in Washington - AIPAC activists help pass more than 100 pro-Israel legislative initiatives a year."
So what's wrong with a critical analysis of yet another interest group buying access to Congress?
Predictably, author and Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who is an unconditional supporter of Israeli policy, led the charge against Mearsheimer and Walt. Dershowitz compared them to conspiracy theorists and bigots and called on American Jews to demand they be treated equally with other Americans.
Earlier this semester, I wrote a column criticizing Israel's hard-line response to the newly-elected Hamas Palestinian government. The day it ran, someone asked me why I thought I was qualified to comment on that miserable and bloody conflict.
Any interest group that lobbies my government to the tune of nearly $3 billion per year is well within my range of criticism. And any government that engages in questionable foreign policy with my country's name attached to the sales receipt is well within the sphere of my written word.
Mearsheimer and Walt also forecasted that there would be a backlash to their thesis. In fact, it addressed the very question of why anyone who criticizes Israel is immediately labeled anti-Semitic.
An article by Michelle Goldberg on Salon.com highlighted the lashing Howard Dean got during his 2004 presidential campaign after he charged that the United States should take a more even-handed stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sen. Joseph Lieberman said he was selling out Israel.
Likewise, Goldberg also pointed to the trail of criticism that followed Steven Spielberg's latest film "Munich," a critical cinematic account of Israel's response to the 1972 Palestinian massacre of Jewish Athletes that displeased many Jews and Israelis. Mearsheimer and Walt have simply analyzed one of the world's most powerful lobbies. They looked at AIPAC's media influence and strategy, its donor base, and its connections in Congress, among members and their staff. Admittedly, their findings are slightly monolithic and probably give the Israeli lobby more credit than it is due. Nevertheless, Dershowitz borders on hysteria in his rebuttal to their piece, even laying guilt on them for the fact that some neo-Nazis are using the report as ammo.
The truth is our support for Israel is damaging to U.S. foreign policy and it's also a substantial drain on American taxpayers. It damages our legitimacy abroad, because we slap Israel on the wrist for its heinous acts while we breathe fire down the backs of the Palestinians for their terrorism.
Richard Cohen, a Washington Post columnist, came up with this strange attempt at a reason:
"Israel's special place in U.S. foreign policy is deserved, in my view, and not entirely the product of lobbying. Israel has earned it, and isn't there something bracing about a special relationship that is not based on oil or markets or strategic location but on shared values."
We share values with Western Europe and steadily more of Eastern Europe. Should we turn on the cash tap for them? Or should we reassess our aid to an industrialized country, with a solid economy, prolific social institutions and a parliamentary democracy second to nearly none? Better yet, maybe we should dangle our aid in front of Israel like a carrot, the same we are doing to the Palestinians.
This would level the burden of reconciliation between the Palestinians and Israel. If the Bush administration hopes to force the Hamas government into decisions by turning off the financial tap, why doesn't it threaten to cut off the $3 billion in aid if Israel doesn't withdraw and dismantle all of its illegal settlements in the West Bank?
In the meantime, Dershowitz and others should stop being victims, because they aren't. The only victims I've heard of lately were lying dead in the streets of Tel Aviv and the Gaza Strip.
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Is the US Waging Israel's Wars?
By Linda S. Heard
April 25, 2006
Many throughout the Muslim world and beyond are asking this question: What are the real reasons behind the US invasion of Iraq and its wish to overthrow the governments of Syria and Iran?
For all their grandiose posturing, in truth, Iraq, Syria and Iran have never posed a direct threat to the US mainland. Put simply, they're too far away from the neighbourhood. So why would the US be willing to expend so many human lives and so much treasury on changing the regimes of countries it doesn't like?
Theories abound. At the top of the list is America's quest for oil, a shrinking, non-renewable resource. But, in reality, the US gets very little of its oil from the Middle East and the Gulf. Most comes from South America and Africa.
Another theory revolves around the petrodollar monopoly, which both Iraq and Iran have sought to disband by trading their oil in Euros. There may be something in this one but it doesn't explain why Syria is in the firing line.
The US says it wishes to export 'democracy' to the region but its reaction towards the Shiite government in Iraq, led by the Dawa Pasrty that has close ties with Iran, and the way that the democratically-elected new Hamas-led Palestinian government has been isolated, hardly lends credence to this. Democracy will not bring US-friendly governments, which is what the Bush administration really seeks.
A premise, which many in the Arab world believe, should also be dissected. Is the US manipulating and remoulding the area so that Israel can remain the only regional superpower in perpetuity?
This is not as fanciful as one might imagine on first glance. Read the following strangely prophetic segment from an article published in 1982 by the World Zionist Organisation's publication Kivunim and penned by Oded Yinon, an Israeli journalist with links to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Yinon's strategy was based on this premise. In order to survive Israel must become an imperial regional power and must also ensure the break-up of all Arab countries so that the region may be carved up into small ineffectual states unequipped to stand up to Israeli military might. Here's what he had to say on Iraq:
"The dissolution of Syria and Iraq into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon is Israel's primary target on the Eastern frontIraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel's targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run, it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel.
"An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us. Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and Lebanon.
"In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul and Shiite areas in the South will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north."
Now let's focus on the reality, 24 years on.
The eight-year long Iran-Iraq War that ended in 1988 was responsible for over a million casualties but did not result in Yinon's desired break-up. Iraq still stood as a strong homogenous entity.
Iraq was, however, severely weakened in 1991 as a result of the Gulf War brought about by Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Still, the country remained unified.
It took the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation to destabilize Iraq and split the country on sectarian lines. Indeed, its new constitution is drawn around a loose federation with partial autonomy for the northern Kurds and the southern Shiites, and the country is now rife with sectarian, religious and ethnic strife. Some say "civil war".
Turning to Syria, until the March 2003 invasion of Iraq Syria under President Bashar Al-Assad enjoyed reasonably good relations with the West. We should also remember that Syria fought alongside the US-led allies during the Gulf War. Syria also voted, albeit reluctantly, for the UN resolution that oiled the invasion, and was a strong partner in the so-called 'War on Terror'.
Then, lo and behold, Syria could do no right. Suddenly, it was accused to all kinds of 'crimes' from hiding Iraq's mythical weapons of mass destruction, harbouring insurgents and terrorists, and allowing the free passage of fighters and arms into Iraq.
Heavy pressure was then put on to Damascus to end its de facto occupation of Lebanon following the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and, now the Syrian government is being investigated by the UN, accused of involvement.
Today the US is actively engaged in weakening the Al-Assad government and is supporting opposition parties. If it is successful, experts predict that Syria, like Iraq, will fall victim to sectarianism and internecine conflict.
Lebanon, which had been recovering from a long civil war and an Israeli occupation, and was on the point of finding some semblance of unity, is also in danger of being destabilized with parties lining up into pro-Syrian and anti-Syrian confederations.
Yinon described the Arab-Muslim world as a temporary house of cards put together by foreigners and arbitrarily divided into states, all made up of combinations of minorities and ethnic groups which are hostile to one another.
He then goes on to bemoan Israel's relinquishment of the Sinai to Egypt under the Camp David Peace Treaty due to that area's reserves of oil, gas and other natural resources.
"Regaining the Sinai Peninsula is, therefore, a political priority, which is obstructed by Camp David" he writes. "And we will have to act in order to return the situation to the status quo which existed in Sinai prior to Sadat's visit and the mistaken peace agreement signed with him in March 1979."
Yinon then predicts that if Egypt is divided and torn apart, some other Arab countries will cease to exist in their present forms and a Christian Coptic state would be founded in Upper Egypt. Presently there are growing problems between Egypt's Muslims and Copts, perceived by some hard line Egyptian Muslims as being more loyal to the US than their own country. This has resulted in open clashes often with resultant deaths.
Apart from Muslim-Copt divisions, Yinon was wrong in his calculations concerning Egypt. He believed Cairo would break the peace treaty with Israel giving the Israelis the opportunity to drive their tanks straight back into the Sinai and other coveted areas. However, the Egyptian government under the ever pragmatic President Hosni Mubarak has stuck to the letter of the treaty and has become an important US ally over the years.
Yinon's solution to the ongoing Israel-Palestine problem was to herd the Palestinians across the Jordan River and label Jordan a Palestinian state.
He rejected the land for peace principle, saying, "It is not possible to go on living in this country in the present situation without separating the two nations, the Arabs to Jordan and the Jews to the areas west of the river.
Genuine co-existence and peace will reign over the land only when the Arabs understand that without Jewish rule between the Jordan and the sea they will have neither existence nor security - a nation of their own and security will be theirs only in Jordan."
Yinon, and others of like mind must once again be disappointed. Jordan gave up any thoughts of Pan-Arabism long before the demise of King Hussein and his son King Abdullah is now America's staunchest Arab ally in the region. With a two-thirds Palestinian majority in his country, Abdullah has chosen self-preservation by hanging on to US coattails.
The idea of packing 4.5 million Palestinians across the Jordan is no longer being openly touted, although this option was on the table in 2002 according to an article by Professor van Creveld in Britain's Daily Telegraph.
A then Gallup poll showed that 44 per cent of Jewish Israelis favoured the expulsion of Palestinians across the River Jordan.
Professor Creveld believed Ariel Sharon favoured this plan too. Sharon was quoted in his article as emphasizing Jordan's Palestinian majority and referring to it as the Palestinian state. "The inference that the Palestinians should go there is clear," wrote Creveld.
If you feel the idea that the US would put itself on the line for the sake of Israel is far-fetched, then it is worth remembering the words of the assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who claimed in his book that the Israeli government was, in fact, responsible for the design of American policy in the Middle East after the 1967 'Six Day War'.
Yinon's essay does not focus on Iran, but let's look at comparatively recent statements coming out of Israel on this subject.
During a visit to Washington in November 2003 two years before the US government turned its fire on Iran - the Israeli Minister of Defence Shaul Mofaz told US officials that "under no circumstances would Israel be able to abide by nuclear weapons in Iranian possession.
During the same month, Meir Dagan, Director of the Mossad, told a parliamentary committee that Iran posed an "existential threat" to Israel, assuring members that Israel could deal with this threat.
Last year, the rhetoric out of Israel was ratcheted up with the Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom telling the press that "the idea that this tyranny of Iran will hold a nuclear bomb is a nightmare, not only for us but also for the whole world."
Israel's Prime Minister designate Ehud Olmert is continuing the tradition of hyping the Iran threat, assisted, it must be said, by fiery rhetoric coming out of Tehran's reckless leader Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.
An article in the Daily Telegraph dated February 18 headed "America would back Israel attack on Iran" clearly indicates that it is Israel leading the charge against Iran.
The article quotes George W. Bush as saying,
"Clearly, if I was the leader of Israel and I'd listened to some of the statements by the Iranian ayatollahs that regarded the security of my country, I'd be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon as well. And in that Israel is our ally, and in that we've made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if her security is threatened."
A year later and the US government is no longer portraying Iran's purported nuclear ambitions as a threat to Israel, but a threat to the United States. In this way the case against Iran and the possible repercussions emanating from that, can be sold to the American people. Suddenly Israel's concerns have become theirs. Interestingly, more than 55 per cent of the US public say they would back strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities, according to a recent poll.
As the columnist Doug Ireland writes in his expose "The Real AIPAC Spy Ring Story It was all about Iran",
"Bush's slip-of-the-tongue that revealed his real intentions was front-page news in Le Monde and other European dailies but received little attention in the States-side major media."
Justin Raimondo wrote in September last year,
"This case has received relatively little publicity in relation to its importance. It isn't just the fact that, for the first time in recent memory, Israel's powerful lobby has been humbled. What is going on here is the exposure of Israel's underground army in the US covert legions of propagandists and outright spies, whose job it is to not only make the case for Israel but to bend American policy to suit Israel's needs) and in the process, penetrate closely-held US secrets."
Back to the question of whether the US is, indeed, waging wars on behalf of Israel. In short, we can't be certain and we may never know since the Bush White House has sealed its private tapes and papers for 100 years.
There is one thing that we do know. Oded Yinon's 1982 "Zionist Plan for the Middle East" is in large part taking shape. Is this pure coincidence? Was Yinon a gifted psychic? Perhaps! Alternatively, we in the West are victims of a long-held agenda not of our making and without doubt not in our interests.
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Israel court calls Palestinian Authority a 'state' outside Israeli legal jurisdiction
Sunday, April 23, 2006
District Court [official backgrounder] issued a landmark decision Sunday saying that the Palestinian Authority (PA) [JURIST news archive] meets the legal requirements needed to be considered a state and that therefore Israel has no legal jurisdiction
over it. The statement was made in a ruling in a civil case between the Association
of the Elon Moreh College and Israel [JURIST
news archive], the PA and other parties. The Association had purchased land
in an area of the West Bank under full PA control (Area
A) and was seeking the return of monies paid after the deal was voided
because the village chief who sold the land was not authorized to do so.
The court said that because the PA was vested with certain powers held by sovereign
entities, it was not obligated to follow Israeli law and that the Israeli courts
have no power to enforce their verdicts inside Palestinian territories, especially
after the 2005 Gaza disengagement [JURIST
report]. In his ruling Judge Boaz Okon said "One sovereign state does not
rule over another sovereign state and does not put it on trial." Haaretz
has local coverage.
The Jerusalem Post has more.
The issue of Palestinian
statehood [Wikipedia backgrounder] has been the focus of longstanding controversy
in Middle East and international politics. The Palestinian Authority, created
in 1994 under the Oslo
Accords [text], is generally considered an interim administrative organization
allowing the Palestinians some degree of home rule, but has not been considered
a state, although the US and other major players in the region support the creation
of a Palestinian state under the terms of the so-called roadmap [text]
to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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The Rape of Iraq
Cheney still profits from Halliburton ties
April 23, 2006
WASHINGTON - It's not the $2 million tax refund. It's the $211,465.
That is the amount of deferred compensation Vice President Dick Cheney received from Halliburton last year. It is the final payment, his lawyer says, of money due Cheney under an agreement that had the giant oil-services firm paying him for his past services as its chief executive officer. The payments continued after Cheney was elected and became chief honcho of American energy policy and one of the chief architects of the war in Iraq.
The size of the refund owed to the vice president and his wife, Lynne, was the news event of the tax-filing season. What headline writer could resist a to-the-rich-go-the-refunds story? But we should not begrudge the Cheneys. The rich are indeed different from you and me. They have vastly more wealth, pay more taxes and get more back when their complex and ever-so-legal deals net a refund.
The far smaller sum from Halliburton is a more exquisite symbol of the vice president's unrepentant arrogance.
The $211,465 that Halliburton paid him in 2005 was more than Cheney's government salary of $205,031. So who does he really work for?
Us, supposedly. This is why the Halliburton payout, which Cheney negotiated before he ran for vice president in 2000, has always been controversial. And it is why Cheney's dismissive attitude toward the appearance of a conflict of interest should have been taken more seriously back at the beginning - that is, before the word "Halliburton" became associated with the phrase "waste, fraud and abuse."
From the start, Cheney insisted that the Halliburton payments were an entitlement, earnings from his hard work as chief executive. And they are. But he also has misrepresented his continued financial ties to the company. "I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had now for over three years," he said in September 2003.
But Cheney was being paid the deferred compensation every year, under an arrangement that guaranteed payment, with interest, even if Halliburton went bankrupt. He also has held stock options worth millions, and many of these were exercised by an independent agent in 2005, with the proceeds rolled over into charitable contributions. The special administrator Cheney established when he took office still controls Halliburton options currently worth about $1 million, according to Cheney's lawyer, Terrence O'Donnell.
The complicated deal executed last year meant the Cheneys received no gain from the exercise of the options, and owed no tax on the proceeds.
Fair enough? Not exactly.
The ethics laws that apply to executive branch personnel are intended to eliminate even the appearance that an official's policy decisions might be influenced by personal finances. "A public servant owes undivided loyalty to the government," according to a 2003 Congressional Research Service report on the Cheney situation. Any advice or recommendation the official makes must "not be tainted, even unintentionally, with influence from private or personal financial interests." The president and vice president are specifically excluded from the criminal sanctions that might apply to underlings. The risk of public opprobrium is supposed to work instead.
Would oilman Cheney, working with oilman George W. Bush, have made the same decisions favoring oil-industry giveaways and invading oil-rich Iraq had the vice president not kept getting money from Halliburton? Probably.
But at least taxpayers would not now suffer the affront of watching the vice president's benefactor gouging us - while simultaneously paying him.
The initial no-bid contract of $2.41 billion granted to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root to deliver fuel and repair oil equipment in Iraq was a debacle of cost overruns and billing irregularities. Pentagon auditors questioned $263 million of the bills as inflated or unsupported by documents. But the Army decided to pay almost all of the questionable costs, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, a separate contract awarded through bidding also drew auditors' complaints that KBR had failed to bring its costs into line or report them accurately.
Through it all, Halliburton has been awarded profits as a percentage of its costs - including those costs questioned as excessive. It got separate government bonuses as well.
Cheney insists he hasn't been involved in any matters involving his old company. Nothing has emerged to directly contradict him. But surely the vice president knows of Halliburton's shoddy performance and its preying on the American taxpayer.
Another public official - perhaps someone as wealthy as Cheney - might have forfeited the Halliburton money. But not the vice president we have.
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A Paper Lid On Iraq's Volcano
The civil war in Iraq won't end with the naming of a hard-line Shiite fundamentalist as Iraq's next prime minister. President George W. Bush, desperate to find some progress in the violent chaos of Iraq, calls the designation of Jawad al-Maliki "awesome." Zalmay Khalilzad, putting on his game face, says of Maliki: "He is a tough guy," before adding, hastily, that he meant "tough-minded." But a man in Baquba, the war-battered city north of Baghdad, had a far more appropriate comment on Maliki. He told The Guardian: "He is a hateful sectarian who has made venomous comments about Iraq and Arabs. Jawad al-Maliki is the final nail in Iraq's coffin." And so he is. The Bush administration hopes that Maliki will lead a government of national unity. But in fact Maliki is just a paper lid on the volcano that is Iraq.
The Iraqi press is already filled with commentary that Maliki is weak, not tough. Among no faction is Maliki seen as a strong or intimidating presence. Even with the Shiite alliance, he is a secondary figure in one of the alliance's less powerful parties, Al Dawa. And his selection ratifies the descent of Iraqi into sectarian division.
Weakening Maliki further is the fact that he is prime minister only because Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Iraq at the beginning of April and, in public, for all Iraqis to see, demanded that Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari step down. Her demand, backed by a letter from President Bush that was given to Iraqi leaders, was-not surprisingly-carried out by the collection of exile politicians who were installed by Washington in the first place. But by its very nature, Rice's imperial ultimatum makes the replacement of Jaafari by Maliki look like the American diktat that it was. And that makes Maliki look even more like a water-carrier for the U.S. occupation, shredding his credibility among ordinary Iraqis.
Is Maliki a "hateful sectarian"? You be the judge. He is, first of all, the No. 2 official in the terrorist Al Dawa party, the Shiite fundamentalist sect-party led by Jaafari. Far from being a figure that can unite Iraq's warring parties, Maliki is a militant Shiite partisan. Like many of the Shiite fundamentalists who now dominate Iraq, Maliki spent many years in exile in Iran, and he has close ties to the Iranian leadership. Maliki was a main author of Iraq's divisive constitution and he was a leader (along with Ahmed Chalabi, the neoconservatives' pet) of the viciously excessive purge of Baathists in Iraq after the war in 2003, a move now seen as having seriously exacerbated the current civil war.
Last year Maliki pushed for a law that would have imposed the death penalty not only for insurgents but even their sympathizers, including anyone found to "finance, propagate, cover up, support, or provide shelter for the terrorists, no matter how involved they are." He has bitterly condemned not only the Sunni-led resistance that opposes the U.S. occupation, but also the two moderate, secular parties that hold several dozen seats in Iraq's parliament, led, respectively, by Salah Mutlaq and Iyad Allawi, the former a secular Iraqi nationalist who claims to maintain a dialogue with elements of the resistance and the latter a secular Shiite who spent years on the CIA's payroll as an opponent of Saddam Hussein. "It should be recalled that some of the electoral lists contain elements that were possibly part of the machinery of the old regime, i.e. Baathists who are subject to the de-Baathification law [and] intelligence agents or those who got involved in the Iraqi Intelligence Service immediately before the collapse of the regime," warned Maliki.
He enthusiastically endorsed the wholesale purge of the police force and the Interior Ministry that was imposed by Bayan Jabr, the hard-line official of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), saying, "Hateful elements have penetrated the security services and we must purge them." The result, of course, was the creation of a ministry whose commandos are heavily infiltrated by SCIRI death squads responsible for the murders of thousands of Iraqis.
In the deal that brought Maliki to power, the Shiite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, deigned to make a deal with the two Kurdish warlord parties that control the Kurdish enclave in the north, and with the Sunni fundamentalist religious bloc, the Iraqi Islamic Party, which is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood secret society. But pointedly they excluded both Mutlaq and Allawi. By including the Sunni fundamentalists, whose leaders got both a deputy president slot and speaker of the parliament, Maliki and the Shiites put their stamp of approval on the Lebanonization of Iraq. And by excluding the secular Mutlaq and Allawi, they made it clear that Iraq has no place for anyone who wants a united state with a strong central government.
How can Maliki approach any sort of deal to quell the Sunni resistance? He can't. In fact, Maliki has denounced the off-again, on-again U.S. dialogue with the resistance as a plot to restore the Baath party to power. So how can Maliki offer anything to the growing Sunni-led insurgency other than war?
How can Maliki move to amend Iraq's constitution in a way that can right its obvious wrongs? He can't. As its author, he is committed to the constitution's provisions for radical federalism (i.e., the breakup of Iraq) and for giving the bulk of Iraqi oil revenues to the Shiites and Kurds. He is also committed to the constitutional provisions that enshrine Islam at the heart of the Iraqi legal system.
How can Maliki move to assure Sunnis that he will put an end to the Shiite death squads in the SCIRI-run Interior Ministry? He can't. He is on record asserting that the way to build the police is to integrate Shiite and Kurdish militia into the police, thus guaranteeing that police commandos continue to be seen as the armed wing of the Shiite movement.
All of this means that the Maliki-led government of Iraq will have little or no effect outside the Green Zone in Baghdad. Battle lines in the civil war are hardening, as exemplified by the unprecedented house-to-house street fighting last week in the north Baghdad neighborhood of Adhamiya. There, in a mostly Sunni part of town, local neighborhood militia fought pitched battles with Iraqi government forces, led by the notorious Shiite-dominated police. It was the first recorded battle in which an entire Baghdad Sunni enclave fought against government troops and against U.S. forces. Meanwhile, even as Maliki's name was being announced, dozens of bodies continued to turn up in Baghdad morgues-including seven in Adhamiya-all victims of death squads. And nine more U.S. troops were killed in Iraq over the weekend.
The Bush administration cannot stanch the bleeding in Iraq simply by tinkering with the leadership of Iraq. First, the U.S. pushed for elections before the fractured country was ready-and against the advice of experts-and then publicly challenged the chosen prime minister. The chaos now engulfing Iraq is a direct result of the Bush administration's policy of pushing democracy on the cheap and by the barrel of a gun. But it's American troops and Iraqi civilians who are paying the price.
Robert Dreyfuss is the author of Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books, 2005). Dreyfuss is a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va., who specializes in politics and national security issues. He is a contributing editor at The Nation, a contributing writer at Mother Jones, a senior correspondent for The American Prospect, and a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone.He can be reached through his website: www.robertdreyfuss.com
Comment: Just the kind of guy to reign over a descent into a manipulated Iraqi civil war.
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By Mike Whitney
It is astonishing how many Americans believe that Iraq is in a civil war.
Haven't we already proved to everyone's satisfaction that the storyline leading up to the war was entirely false; that all of the charges and claims of WMD and connections to 9-11 were completely baseless?
And wasn't "alleged" terrorist mastermind, Abu Musab al Zarqawi exposed last week in a Washington Post article as a fraud; a shabby invention of the fertile imaginations of Pentagon planners and their surrogates in the media?
Colonel Derek Harvey candidly admitted that the military intentionally "enlarged Zarqawi's caricature" to create the impression that the struggle against occupation was really a fight against terrorism.
What more proof do we need?
Didn't the Bush administration adopt a strategy produced by the right-wing think tank, Rand Corp. for exploiting the ideological and religious differences of the Iraqi people, even though Iraq has no history of sectarian violence?
So why are the American people so eager to accept the Pentagon-media analysis of the present conflict in Iraq? Every part of the narrative so far has been exposed as a lie. Are we to believe that the media has suddenly "seen the light" and decided to record the facts as objectively as possible?
Are we to believe that the Pentagon has decided to "be straight" with the public about the current state of affairs in Iraq?
Let us at least agree on the one basic axiom that underscores all corporate journalism; the media never tells the truth.
Sure, stories break that shed light on some area of government waste, fraud or abuse, but the really big stories (independent investigations of 9-11, the destruction of Falluja, the 2004 Ohio election fraud, the Downing Street memo, "Able Danger") simply disappear behind a wall of disinformation. The truth only leaches out through its corporate spigot as a way of lending credibility to the "prevailing lie" which animates every area of the corporate information-system.
This is THEIR system, not yours or mine; and it is their narrative that appears on the front page of the New York Times or the headline story on CNN. That storyline is always skewed in favor of those who have a vested interest in persuading the public that their perspective is correct, which takes us back to our original axiom; the media never tells the truth.
The civil war storyline is intended to divert attention from the bloody subjugation of the Iraqi people by a foreign military. This is the real story of the Iraqi conflict. The current malaise in Iraq is reducible to three bullet-points; occupation, occupation, and occupation. Any departure from this essential narrative is simply false.
American Intelligence services are involved in every area of the present hostilities. Author Max Fuller ("Crying Wolf: Media disinformation and Deaths squads in Occupied Iraq") has documented how CIA operatives have not only trained the Iraqi death squads operating in the Interior ministry, but created a high-tech facility with data banks of the names of potential targets for future attacks.
Does that sound like civil war or a pretty well-thought out scheme for plunging the country into chaos?
And how does one explain the fact that there have been three separate incidents where occupation forces have been either caught or connected to bombings in Iraq?
The first was the famous incident in Basra where two British paramilitaries were caught disguised as Arabs with a truck-full of explosives in their vehicle. Panicky British forces destroyed the Basra jail to release the two captured SAS soldiers clearly afraid that their involvement in setting off bombs would be exposed.
Another report that appeared in Reuters "American arrested with weapons in Iraq" confirmed that an American "security contractor working for a private company, possessed explosives which were found in his car." He was arrested by Iraqi security guards.
The bombing of the Golden-domed mosque also establishes links between the sporadic bombing in Iraq and American clandestine operatives. The AFP reported that the bombing "was the work of specialists" and the "placing of explosives must have taken at least 12 hours". The report continues:
"Construction Minister Jassem Mohammed Jaafar said, "Holes were dug into the mausoleum's four main pillars and packed with explosives. Then charges were connected together and linked to another charge placed just under the dome. The wires were then linked to a detonator which was triggered at a distance."
Clearly the bombing was not carried out by rogue elements in the disparate Iraqi resistance but highly trained saboteurs executing a precision demolition to incite sectarian violence. The blast bears all the hallmarks of a covert Intelligence agency operation. Eyewitness accounts verify that American troops and Iraqi National Guard were active in the area throughout the night and that their cars could be heard running "the whole night until next morning". People living around the mosque were told "to stay in your shop and don't leave the area".
At 6:30 AM the American troops left, just 10 minutes before the bombs went off.
Since the bombing, the media has universally adopted the approach that the destruction of the mosque was the "catalyzing event" which put Iraq on the pat to civil war.
It is utter nonsense.
The story is just as bogus as the earlier fabrications about WMD or al Zarqawi. In fact, if it was the truth, we can be reasonably certain that it would not appear in the headlines, as per our original axiom that "the media never tells the truth".
The rationale leading up to the war was a lie. The justification for the ongoing occupation as a fight against terrorism (al Zarqawi) was a lie. The fairy tale about an Iraqi civil war is a lie. And, presumably, all the future stories diverting attention from America's bloody occupation will be lies.
Iraq is subsumed by a wave of violence which radiates directly from the White House. Don't blame the Iraqis. The world's most ancient civilization is being systematically obliterated to feed the insatiable greed of Washington warlords and their constituents in the corporate boardrooms across America.
Iraq is America's slaughterhouse; the Iraqi people have no part in this crime.
Don't call it civil war.
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Shiite militias move into oil-rich Kirkuk
By Jonathan Finer
The Washington Post
April 25, 2006
Control of Iraqi city has long been in dispute
KIRKUK, Iraq - Hundreds of Shiite Muslim militiamen have deployed in recent weeks to this restive city -- widely considered the most likely flash point for an Iraqi civil war -- vowing to fight any attempt to shift control over Kirkuk to the Kurdish-governed north, according to U.S. commanders and diplomats, local police and politicians.
Until recently, the presence of the militias here was minimal. U.S. officials have called the Shiite armed groups the deadliest threat to security in much of the country. They have been blamed for hundreds of killings during mounting sectarian violence in central and southern Iraq since the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in February.
The Mahdi Army, led by firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, has sent at least two companies, each with about 120 fighters, according to Thomas Wise, political counselor for the U.S. Embassy's Kirkuk regional office, which has been tracking militia activity. The Badr Organization, the armed wing of Iraq's largest Shiite political party, has also boosted its presence and opened several offices across the region, military officers here said.
Although still in its early stages, the militia buildup "is something that definitely concerns us, and something that we are watching very carefully," said Col. David R. Gray, 48, of Herscher, Ill., commander of the 101st Airborne's 1st Brigade Combat Team, based in Kirkuk. "So far they haven't been that violent, but does it add to the tension, putting them into this maelstrom? Absolutely."
Pivotal and divisive issue
The fate of oil-rich Kirkuk -- Iraq's third-largest city with about a million residents and sizable ethnic Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen communities -- has been a pivotal and divisive issue since long before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Iraq's constitution, endorsed in nationwide balloting in October, calls for a referendum on the future of the region by the end of 2007, but many key details are in dispute, such as who will be permitted to vote.
Kurdish leaders speak openly of their intention to use force if necessary to gain control of the city, which they consider the historical capital of a vast Kurdish nation also extending into Iran and Turkey. During the rule of President Saddam Hussein, Arabs brought in from elsewhere in Iraq displaced thousands of Kurds. As many as 300,000 Kurds who were pushed out have returned to the area, according to U.S. estimates, establishing vast settlements on the outskirts of the city and making them its largest ethnic community. Kurds also occupy most of the top provincial political and security jobs.
Many Iraqi Arabs, both Sunni and Shiite, are adamantly opposed to relinquishing Kirkuk, among them Sadr and his political followers.
Operating within and alongside Iraq's police and army, Shiite militias have grown politically more powerful and boosted their membership, despite being outlawed under Iraq's new constitution. U.S. officials have called on the Shiite-led government, whose leading parties are tied to Badr and the Mahdi Army, to rein them in, but few if any such steps have been taken.
Gray said the militias used the bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad, as a pretext for expanding into Kirkuk, ostensibly to protect their mosques and people. Shiite residents of Kirkuk, most of whose families were transferred here by Hussein decades ago, are believed to make up less than 5 percent of the local population.
For the most part, however, the militias have maintained a low profile, U.S. military officials said. Shortly after they arrived, an Iraqi police unit told them to stow their guns and promised that the mosques would be protected. The militias complied. They have held at least three large but peaceful street demonstrations, including two by Badr that attracted more than 2,000 people. Wise said Badr is less troubled by the prospect of Kurdish control of Kirkuk.
"We know they are here, but they are not patrolling in the streets publicly, not yet," said Brig. Gen. Sherko Shakir, the provincial police chief.
A few hundred Shiite militiamen would be no match for the tens of thousands of Kurdish fighters either serving in Iraqi army units in Kirkuk or stationed outside the city in Kurdish-controlled provinces.
In a meeting here last week, Sadr's representative in the city, Abdul Karim Khalifa, told U.S. officials that more armed loyalists were on the way and that as many as 7,000 to 10,000 Shiite residents were prepared to fight alongside the Mahdi Army if called upon. Legions more Shiite militiamen would push north from Baghdad's Sadr City slum, he said, according to Wise.
"His message was essentially that any idea of Kirkuk going to the Kurds will mean a fight," Wise said. "He said that their policy here was different from in other places, that they are not going to attack coalition forces because their only enemy here is the Kurds."
U.S. officials said the Shiite armed groups had not disrupted security here, but local police and government officials, many of them Kurds, have accused them of a wave of crimes.
"We fear the expansion of the role of Shiite armed men in Kirkuk," said Yadgar Abdullah, commander of the police emergency operations center in Kirkuk and an official with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which administers the Kurds' decades-old militia, the pesh merga . He said the number of kidnappings for ransom in Kirkuk has surged since the militias arrival.
Another Kurdish security official, who spoke on condition he not be named, said Shiite militias are thought to have conducted at least five killings of Kurds in Kirkuk and the surrounding area.
"We are dealing with anybody that carries weapons and stands against the Iraqi government to disturb security," Abdullah said. "They will be considered terrorists that must be fought and disarmed."
In a recent interview, Khalifa, the Sadr representative, said the Mahdi Army -- which battled U.S. troops across southern and central Iraq in 2004 -- was responding to a power play by Kurdish politicians, whom he accused of plotting "to marginalize us in the political process and trying to force the Shiite Arabs out" by seizing control of Kirkuk.
New challenge for U.S. troops
Despite intense competition among Iraqi factions for control of the city, U.S. forces here have been largely successful at limiting violence. But the influx of Shiite militias poses a new challenge for American troops, who have long considered the primary threat to be the Sunni Arab-led insurgency.
Last week about two dozen U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi SWAT team launched a midnight raid in search of 12 men accused of planting a deadly roadside bomb last month. They crammed into a dozen Humvees and, with helicopters buzzing overhead, swarmed a quiet neighborhood in central Kirkuk, kicking down doors and rummaging through a half-dozen houses.
The six suspects they detained, whose names were provided by local informants, were believed to be members of the Mahdi Army, accused by U.S. and British forces of recent attacks on coalition troops in Baghdad and several southern cities. Photographs of Sadr were plastered on virtually every wall of every raided home.
"I had never heard of these Mahdi guys being up here until tonight," said Lt. John Reynolds, 23, of Ararat, Va., a platoon leader, as he rifled a cabinet full of Shiite prayer flags, posters depicting Imam Ali, and portraits of the youthful Sadr and his white-bearded father.
In a courtyard outside, a woman in a head scarf clutched three weeping children to her chest. Two men arrested inside sat blindfolded and bound in plastic handcuffs, one a soldier in the Iraqi army, the other a local policeman.
"Just what we need in a place like this," Reynolds said, "something new to worry about."
Kurds boost ranks
In response to the Shiite buildup, the Kurdish pesh merga militia has boosted its already substantial presence in Kirkuk and in the city of Tuz, where nearly 100 Kurdish gunmen arrived in recent weeks, Wise, the State Department representative, and U.S. commanders said.
The Kurds have also increased to about 15,000 the number of private security workers guarding offices and government buildings in the Kirkuk region, according to a Western official here, who said they could be called upon to fight if ethnic conflict escalated.
Tuz, a city of about 200,000 south of Kirkuk, was considered so peaceful in January that U.S. forces transferred out almost all their soldiers, with about 40 remaining as advisers to the Iraqi troops remaining behind.
"Now you are seeing lots of attempts by the militias to intimidate Iraqi soldiers there," said Lt. Col. Bob Benjamin, 42, of Chicago, deputy commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team. "We found bombs near some mosques. There is definitely the potential for increased violence, but the Iraqis so far have kept the lid on the pot."
U.S. officers here say a further cause for concern is that the arrival of the militias, who U.S. officials say receive training, arms and funding from Iran, has coincided with an influx of Iranian sniper rifles and roadside-bomb technology in the region. The latter includes highly lethal Iranian-designed "shape charges" that channel the blast to punch through armored vehicles. Such a device killed a U.S. soldier this month, the first U.S. fatality in the city of Kirkuk since the 101st Airborne returned to Iraq in November.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company
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Turkish military action in Iraq will take place if needed - Ozkok
Kuwait News Agency
ANKARA -- Chief of the Turkish General Staff Hilmi Ozkok said Turkey will conduct military action in northern Iraq if needed.
According to Turkey's Anadolu Agency, Ozkok said since article 51 of the UN Charter allows beyond-the-border military action, Turkey might enter Iraq to eliminate Kurdish separatists.
While explaining that each nation makes decisions independently depending in its needs, he said this issue has no link with the visit of US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice to Ankara on Tuesday.
Ozkok explained that moving the Land Forces Command to the Turkish border has no special connotation, adding that "it was only a matter of needing the command over there."
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Preparing Palestine For Genocide
Phased Ethnic Cleansing In Palestine
The international community has an imperative moral obligation to pressure countries that are currently aiding Israel.
From the daily streams of information, sent out by regular media, one is easily led to believe that the current situation of increasing isolation and suffocation of the Palestinians, is the result of unfortunate developments, such as the derailment of a once existent 'peace process'. However, the reality of the situation, however skilfully and effectively obscured by the information apparatus that rules our global village's news sources, shows a different image. It reveals, that today's ever-closing siege upon the Palestinian people is yet another phase in a policy of what could be described, in accordance with modern day terminology, as 'phased ethnic cleansing.'
The Palestinian elections, the cleanest feat of Arab democracy in modern history, and the resulting rise of Hamas to power within the Palestinian Authority, were developments that apparently surprised many among the public in the West. Had, however, media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict routinely been even-handed and informative, untarnished by a systematic policy of misinformation, then people might have been well-informed enough to see the victory of Hamas coming, as a natural response to the prevalent situation.
The 'phased ethnic cleansing', that has been the cornerstone of Zionist land conquest from the Nakba until today's land-grabbing policy of the Israeli Apartheid Wall, has, from the beginning, been covered up by the mantra of 'Israeli security'. This mantra works like a charm in Western societies, mainly because of the induced hypersensitivity over 'anti-Semite' issues, where people advocating the Palestinian cause are quickly branded 'anti-Semite'. This could cause them to be, albeit wrongfully, associated with Nazism, thereby undermining their credibility and position, and stifling anti-Israeli criticism under the threat of that label.
By brandishing the flag of 'Israeli security', governments in the West have equally easily been able to 'explain' to the public, why they invest so much of their taxpayers' money in the protection of an obviously land-grabbing Zionist state. The 'War on Terrorism' mantra has, since 2001, been added to this policy of intimidation, making an aspiring pro-Palestinian advocate fear being labelled 'supporter of terrorists', next to 'anti-Semite', no matter how baseless these accusations are.
Phased Ethnic Cleansing
The Nakba of 1948 resulted in roughly 800,000 ethnically cleansed Palestinians, who were forcefully expelled from their homes and lands by Zionist forces. For a long time, Israel managed to bypass criticism upon these war crimes, by means of outright denial, and by propagating the notion that Palestinians had left their homes in response to calls by Arab leaderships to do so. Israeli historian Benny Morris, in the nineties, was the first Zionist to identify the Palestinian exodus as a result of direct violence from Jewish terrorist organizations, and thereby nullified the previously propagated theory.
The first phase was hereby concluded, and resulted in enough land with emptied Palestinian villages, to be able to declare the birth of the Zionist state. The villages, approximately 400 of them, were subsequently razed to the ground, their names wiped off the maps, and replaced by Hebrew names, signifying that this land was henceforth forever to be Jewish, and that none of the refugees would ever be allowed to return to their homes.
And indeed, until today, in defiance of UN resolution 194, which calls for the unconditional return of the refugees, Israel considers these Palestinians to be expelled forever. Besides that, it has managed to manipulate international politics in such a way, that its refusal to comply with this and other UN resolutions and international agreements, is handled as if being Israel's prerogative.
The second wave of ethnic cleansing took place in the war of 1967, then portrayed by Israel as a war of defence, expelling 300,000 more Palestinians, and confiscating yet more land. Even in those years, media manipulation was already developed to an extent that the public in Western countries largely accepted this 'defence' theory. However, what seems to still be escaping the attention of a significant section of the public in the West, is the fact that today's clearly visible colonization process of the West Bank, completely contradicts the 'defence' motive widely believed before. Why would a defence zone, which should have a temporary status, afterwards be infiltrated with fortified colonies, often referred to as 'Israeli settlements'?
Declaredly, these settlements, considered illegal by international law, will never be removed, but will be included in the unilateral border declaration that is to be issued by Israel before 2010, as Olmert's ruling Kadima party boldly promises. Then why is the retreat from Gaza publicized as an act of peace, rather than as a decision made in the interest of Israel's ethnic segregation and land annexation policies?
For this same reason, many fail to recognize the fact that the Apartheid Wall is, in reality, a land acquisition plan, based on illegal and forceful confiscation. And, according to a solid Israeli tradition, there is no permanent land acquisition without including the "demographic factor": in the land that we acquire, how many Palestinians do we need to evict, in order to secure the Jewish character of the Zionist state?
There is, indeed, as should be expected, an ethnic cleansing plan connected to this new phase of land acquisition. In its current form, however, it strongly differs from the 'classical' Zionist approach, which constituted outright expulsion through military aggression, as it did in the first and second waves of ethnic cleansing.
Slow Ethnic Cleansing
In this third phase, which coincides with an era of massive expansion of communication technology and networks, through the advent of internet and satellite media, an outright violent expulsion might damage Israel's public image in an irreparable way. For this reason the third phase has a different strategy, less visible from the window of routinely controlled media, but aiming to be as effective as possible, in terms of attaining Jewish dominance in illegally 'acquired' land.
In this day and age, economical refugees from many poor countries are roaming all over the world in order to find their life sustenance elsewhere. Through making life utterly unbearable, and, if necessary, unsustainable in the areas where Palestinians are living, locked in by a militarily reinforced wall, this Israeli regime is apparently trying to cause a similar wave of emigration, based on economic urgency. For comprehensive and detailed reports on how Palestinian daily life is made practically impossible by these policies, excellent information is provided by Stop the Wall (www.stopthewall.org), and by many other human rights organizations.
As another example of Israel's policy of economical aggression, the far reaching effects of the massive uprooting of hundreds of thousands of olive trees by the Israeli forces, upon Palestinian economy, are reminiscent of the tactics white settlers used against the Native American peoples, when they started the systematic eradication of their primary source of existence, the North American buffalo.
With a shortage of food and other necessities, and no jobs, and with two-thirds of the people living under the income of 2 $ a day as a direct result of years of economical suffocation under Israeli siege, it seems likely to the policymakers that vast areas, especially those newly confiscated by the Apartheid wall, which reaches deep into Palestinian lands, will be emptied from Palestinians in this fashion. This phase of 'slow ethnic cleansing' has been initiated, but has so far met with a remarkable resilience of the Palestinian population to largely maintain not only their presence in their land in spite of extremely harsh conditions, but also their social cohesion, while being put under intense pressure to be pushed towards internal strife and conflict.
The democratically mature manner in which the recent Palestinian elections were handled, in a way that declaredly impressed former US president Jimmy Carter, is a shining example of this widely felt dedication and resilience. Nonetheless, social disruption, which is one of the aims of the Israeli siege, is inevitably on the increase, as becomes clear from the reports of an increase of inter-Palestinian violence, issued by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR).
By cutting off the funds to the new Palestinian government, the EU and US are not only making a political and moral blunder, with regard to their push for democracy , and their contradictory disapproval of the outcome of it. They even become active participants in the physical and economical siege that Israel is suffocating the Palestinians with, and thereby turn themselves into direct accomplices of the third phase of Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.
Turning the Tide
With the results of the recent Israeli elections in mind, there is considerable reason to fear, that phase four, which is on the agenda of many of the right-wing parties, may at some point in time rule the agenda of Israeli politics. Euphemistically termed 'transfer' in Zionist terminology, it in fact constitutes the complete expulsion of the Palestinians. But before it even gets that far, the international community has an imperative moral obligation to pressure countries that are currently aiding Israel, into ending their participation in Israel's policy of phased ethnic cleansing.
Besides that, in order to regain their moral integrity towards the issue, and help solve the conflict in a manner that respects international law, they ought to pressure Israel into compliance with the International Court of Justice's 2004 verdict, which calls for the removal of the Apartheid Wall. The fact, that Israel has always chosen to ruthlessly ignore UN resolutions, should also be called into question, and calls for their immediate implementation would be vital steps in the direction of solving the very essence of the conflict.
Only a massive banning of Israeli products, and a freeze on its profitable international business contracts, could pressure Israel into abandoning its ethnic cleansing policies. There is no reason why to expect Israeli stubbornness, in its continuation of a system of ethnic segregation similar to Apartheid, to prove more resistant than the South African version, when faced with a comprehensive international boycott.
Israel, being the only nuclear power in the region, still refusing to sign the International Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, and in possession of the 4th strongest army in the world, still has the most powerful countries in the world on their toes to protect its 'security'. It is long overdue, that the security of the Palestinians, who clearly find themselves in a situation of grave and existential danger, is placed high on the international agenda.
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Gaza: severe food shortage
Gaza City: An empty watchtower overlooks a deserted road lined with rusting vehicle parts. This is Gaza's economic lifeline, the Karni crossing into Israel, which is supposed to handle 1,300 containers of merchandise and food per day in order to sustain 1.3 million people.
But nothing is entering or leaving Gaza, and now the funds to purchase what is available there are also drying up, bringing the dire situation of its people to a new and febrile crisis.
Karni is officially closed because the Israeli army has declared a security alert for the Jewish Passover holiday. Yet it has barely been open this year. The effect is a paralysis of Gaza's commerce and severe shortages of basic foods. Not that the locals are in a position to buy what food there is. There is little money because the European Union, Canada and the United States have stopped funding the aid-dependent Palestinian Authority, which can no longer pay its staff's wages.
The result is that families are existing on tiny amounts of money and businesses are facing collapse. Palestinian areas in the West Bank face similar difficulties, but the situation in Gaza is much more severe. John Ging, Gaza director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said while he did not expect people to starve, "the clock is ticking towards a crisis." -
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Abbas calls for international conference 'immediately'
April 26, 2006
OSLO - Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas called for direct negotiations to be held "immediately" between the Israelis and Palestinians at an international conference to find a solution to the Middle East conflict.
"An international conference should be summoned immediately, in which direct negotiations take place (between the Israelis and Palestinians), on the basis of international UN resolutions and signed agreements," Abbas said in a speech at the Nobel Institute in Oslo.
"The international group, whether it is the Quartet (the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations), or any other international framework, would play the role of the broker and arbitrator at the same time," he added.
"I believe that to resolve the conflict, both sides should not be left alone with this imbalance of occupier and occupied," Abbas said.
The Palestinian leader, currently on a tour of Europe, encouraged the international community to "move fast" to secure a negotiated settlement to the conflict and stop a unilateral solution being imposed by acting Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert.
"The international community needs to move fast. Israel's unilateral measures through which it strives to impose its vision and expansionist map by building the discrimination separation wall, Judaising Jerusalem, would lead to a practical annexation of more than 58 percent of the West Bank to Israel," the Palestinian leader said.
He was referring to Olmert's plan to dismantle smaller settlements in the West Bank and annex the larger ones.
Abbas said Israel's unilateral measures risk "eliminating any chance to establish a viable independent Palestinian state".
He cited Israeli moves to put "their hands on Palestinian artesian water resources, transforming our lands into isolated cantons."
The Palestinian leader said he had a free hand to negotiate with the Israelis despite the victory of radical Islamist group Hamas in recent Palestinian elections.
"As president of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and as elected chairman of the Palestinian National Authority, I am ready to immediately resume negotiations with the Israeli government," Abbas said.
"It is important for me to clarify that the Palestinian legislative elections, which brought Hamas to power, is not an obstacle in front of negotiations. Negotiations are still the mandate of the PLO, which signed all previous agreements with Israel," he added.
Abbas, due to meet Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg later Wednesday, also called on the international community to resume financial aid to the Palestinians which has been suspended since Hamas formed its government last month.
"We call upon the international community in general, and upon Europe too, at the individual level of each state and collectively in the frame of the European Union, to continue to provide various forms of moral and financial support, to enable us to achieve our goals in reaching peace in the area, and making it a success," the leader said.
Abbas was speaking in Oslo, the home of the now-defunct 1993 peace accords between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The Palestinian leader was due to travel to Helsinki later Wednesday and then to Paris.
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Norway gives $20m to cash-strapped Palestinians
Wednesday April 26, 2006
Norway today pledged $20m (Ł11.2m) in aid to the Palestinians, but said none of it would go directly to the Hamas government.
The Norwegian prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, said his country would try to channel the money to the Palestinians through the UN or Norwegian non-profit organisations.
The pledge came during a one-day visit to Norway by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is on a tour to try to persuade western governments to provide aid to the Palestinian Authority.
Mr Abbas called for an international conference to help set the stage for direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
He said the quartet of the UN, the EU, the US and Russia could play the role of broker and arbitrator in such talks.
"I am ready to immediately resume negotiations with the Israeli government," he said, adding that the Hamas-led government was not an obstacle to negotiations with Israel.
The Palestinian Authority has been strapped for cash since Hamas swept to a surprise victory in parliamentary elections in January.
The Palestinian government needs Ł75m a month, but funding from the US, Israel, the EU and Canada has been stopped because of Hamas' refusal to recognise Israel and renounce violence.
Hamas is on the EU and US lists of terrorist groups, meaning European and American officials are not allowed to deal directly with Hamas members.
In the past month, Iran and Russia have stepped in to plug the funding gap, with Tehran pledging $55.2m, but the aid-dependent economy of the Palestinian territories remains fragile.
Indonesia today urged foreign countries to continue to provide aid to the Palestinian government. During a visit to Saudi Arabia, the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said: "Give Hamas a chance to solve the Palestinian problem. Don't add to their problems by stopping aid."
Turkey has also criticised the EU's decision to cut off funding.
Norway, the second biggest donor to the Palestinians after the US, said it would deliver at least as much aid this year as last year if the Hamas regime fulfilled certain conditions.
"The support we will give them in 2006 will be equally big or bigger" than in 2005, the Norwegian foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere, told reporters.
Norway last year gave $60m directly to Palestinian Authority and $195m to the United Nations relief and works agency which helps Palestinian refugees.
Norway has already given the Palestinian Authority $10m this year. The next instalment is due around mid-2006. Norway backs the view that the Palestinian Authority must take steps to comply with the quartet's demands to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept previously signed agreements.
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30 Arrests Made in Egypt Resort Attack
By MARIAM FAM
Apr 25 7:30 PM US/Eastern
DAHAB, Egypt - Egyptian authorities, already struggling with elusive terror cells in the rugged Sinai Peninsula, moved quickly Tuesday - arresting 30 men in the triple bombings that ripped apart a crowded resort town, killing 24 on a tranquil holiday evening.
Radical Muslim groups moved just as rapidly to distance themselves from the Dahab attacks. The leader of Egypt's banned Muslim brotherhood condemned them as "aggression on human souls created by God."
The militant Palestinian Hamas organization called them a "criminal attack which is against all human values."
Many frightened tourists fled Sinai coastal resorts where two previous bomb attacks - like the Dahab blasts - bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida-linked groups that appear to have a free hand to continue operations in the barren, backward and extremely rugged Sinai Peninsula.
Egyptian authorities - despite massive sweeps by thousands of troops and hundreds of arrests after each previous Sinai attack - appeared increasingly frustrated by the ease with which terrorists continue to hit the country's vital tourism industry. It brought in $6.4 billion in 2005 and is the top source of foreign exchange.
"This incident is addressed to the whole of Egypt, there is no reason for it other than an attempt to destroy the economy of Egypt by attacking tourism," said Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif as he visited blast victims in a Sharm el-Sheik hospital.
President Hosni Mubarak, who oversees an already-stagnant economy with unemployment rising in lockstep with the population explosion, called the attack a "sinful terrorist action."
The attacks came just one day after al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden had urged Muslims to support al-Qaida in what he called a war against Islam.
Egyptian officials have said local people were behind the previous bombings in the Sinai, but outside security experts say Sinai's extremists seem either al-Qaida linked or at least aligned with its views.
Security officials, who refused to be identified because they were not authorized to release the information, said the remains of three men recovered from the scene of the blasts were so badly torn apart that they could have been suicide attackers.
Arabs throughout the Middle East voiced outrage, signaling a growing backlash as fellow Muslims increasingly bear the brunt of terrorist attacks. Of the 24 dead in Dahab, 21 were Egyptians.
"I don't think these people care" if Muslims or Arabs are killed. "They'll carry on at any price," said Lara Darwazah, a 31-year-old music teacher in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
All three Sinai bombings were timed to Egyptian national holidays when resorts were especially crowded with local tourists as well as foreigners who flock to the seaside towns, the world-renowned beaches and extraordinary reefs.
Taba and Ras Shitan in the northern Sinai near the Israeli border were hit and 34 killed in October 2004, a day before the holiday marking the start of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
Last July 23 - Egypt's national day - suicide bombers killed 64 people, mainly tourists, in Sharm el-Sheik on the southern tip of the Sinai.
Monday's Dahab bombings occurred on the eve of Sinai Liberation Day, when Egypt regained full control of the peninsula from Israel in 1986. The tourist population was swollen further by the coincidence of the long Coptic Christian Easter weekend and an ancient Egyptian holiday to mark the start of spring.
Egypt's Sinai resorts are a tempting and virtually made-to-order target for Islamic militants who were jailed by Mubarak or fled to safer territory and became even more radical_ witness Egyptian physician Ayman al-Zawheri's migration to Afghanistan and the No. 2 place in al-Qaida.
The isolated and desolate peninsula also has become a favored Israeli holiday destination, making bombings there both a symbolic attack on Israelis and an assault to undermine Mubarak's authority and rattle his tenuous economy.
Interior Minister Habib el-Adly said it was not immediately clear if the attack could have been carried out by a group as organized as those who detonated the earlier bombs. He said the explosives were different than those used in Sharm el-Sheik or Taba.
The blasts were so powerful that police divers worked Tuesday to retrieve body parts from the shallow waters of the sea, as workers swept shards of glass from the streets. At one spot near the beach, two black sandals lay in a pool of blood on a wooden footbridge.
Nearby, outside the supermarket where one blast occurred, a tiny shoe covered in blood lay on top of a baby stroller. Witnesses said the stroller belonged to foreign twin infants who they said looked European.
One twin was inside the shop with the mother when the blast occurred, and the other outside in the stroller, said Mohammed Emad, 16, who sells spices at the market and whose hand was hurt by flying glass.
The boy said he went with the mother and twins to hospital, where one of the twins died. "I pushed the stroller away out of the doorway" after the blast, he said.
El-Adly put the death toll at 23, including 20 Egyptians and three foreigners. But Sinai hospital officials said Tuesday that an Egyptian man had died of his wounds, bringing the toll to 24. The German Foreign Ministry said a 10-year-old German boy was among the dead.
Dr. Hazem Ahmed of Sharm el-Sheik Hospital said 85 people were wounded.
The World Economic Forum said it would go ahead with plans to hold a meeting of Middle Eastern government and business leaders in Sharm-el- Sheik on May 20-22.
"For the sake of a more peaceful future for humankind we have to show our solidarity by holding this meeting," said Klaus Schwab, the Geneva-based convener of the forum, in a letter to Mubarak.
The Dahab attack seemed consistent with the aims of hardline al-Qaida sympathizers, often called Salafists.
In contrast, groups like Hamas have been careful to say that their attacks are aimed only against Israel, and are not part of a worldwide radical Islamic jihad.
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Missing bioterror substances have officials guessing
By WAYNE PARRY
The Associated Press
April 25, 2006
NEWARK, N.J. - In the past year, two New Jersey laboratories have been unable to account for plague-infested mice and vials of deadly anthrax spores, and top state officials are scrambling to devise better ways to safeguard deadly material.
In both cases, authorities say they think the items in question weren't actually lost, but were simply unaccounted for due to clerical errors.
They can't say for sure - and that has a Rutgers microbiologist predicting more trouble if such substances aren't kept at a central location.
"The fact that they don't know the answer means they're not running a properly secured facility," professor Richard Ebright said of both cases. "The odds are that it was an accounting error, but it is very possible that one of the persons with access to the lab has removed that material."
Last week, state health officials said they could not account for two vials of anthrax bacteria once thought to have been stored at a government laboratory in Trenton. In September, a Newark health research lab lost track of three mice infected with the bacteria responsible for bubonic plague.
The mice were never located, and officials said the rodents might have been stolen, eaten by other lab animals or just misplaced in a paperwork error.
While the FBI and state authorities are investigating the possibility that the anthrax and mice were removed from the labs, they believe that no crimes have been committed. The state Health Department plans to tell federal authorities on Wednesday it believes the anthrax case is the result of a counting error.
Samples of anthrax has been stored at a Trenton lab since shortly after the October 2001 anthrax mailings that went through a Hamilton, N.J., post office, killing four people across the country and sickened 17.
Richard Canas, New Jersey's Homeland Security director, said it does appear an accounting error is to blame for the latest case. But he wants better safeguards put in place, including disposing of some of the samples.
"I think the genesis was that they were inundated with samples," Canas said. "What I would like to see is bringing this number down. Let's at least cull these down into something more manageable."
Ebright, who has been critical of the nation's bioterrorism safety efforts since the anthrax attacks, said more than 300 institutions nationwide and 16,500 individuals were given government clearance to possess deadly bio-agents such as anthrax as part of a plan to study and protect the specimens.
"After the mailings in 2001, the logical approach was to tightly restrict the number of institutions and officials with access to the materials," he said. "Precisely the opposite has happened, unfortunately. This is a case when we've spent money to put ourselves at greater risk."
That's not to say facilities haven't taken stronger steps on their own. The Trenton lab where the anthrax spores were stored has multiple layers of security, including a padlocked containment area requiring two different sets of identification for access. Only 11 people have such clearance, and all have been questioned, authorities said.
The lab also has video monitoring and 24-hour security guards.
The Newark lab that lost track of the plague-infested mice conducts bioterrorism research for the federal government. After the incident, the facility improved its video surveillance and stopped using contracted animal handlers. Before the incident, the center relied on a single security guard.
Ebright said the U.S. should store all its hazardous bio-agents at a single, secure location rather than having them scattered across the country.
"If an adversary of the United States, such as al-Qaida, wanted to obtain this material, the most effective, simple procedure to do so is to plant a person in one of those numerous institutions that the administration has put in place working with this material," he said. "Because the number of those institutions has increased and because it happened without an increase in effective security, the risk to the United States has dramatically increased."
Comment: Do you get the impression from stories like this one that the whole "security" schtick isn't actually meant to protect us from Islamic terrorists?
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Jury Convicts Calif. Man in Terrorism Case
By DON THOMPSON
Associated Press Writer
Apr 25 7:19 PM US/Eastern
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A federal jury on Tuesday convicted a 23-year-old man of supporting terrorists by attending an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan three years ago.
Hamid Hayat, a seasonal farm worker in Lodi, an agricultural town south of Sacramento, was convicted of one count of providing material support to terrorists and three counts of lying to the FBI.
The verdict came hours after a separate jury hearing a case against the man's father deadlocked, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial.
The father, 48-year-old ice cream truck driver Umer Hayat, is charged with two counts of lying to the FBI about his son's involvement in the training camp. Defense attorneys and prosecutors will meet in court May 5 to decide whether he will be retried.
Both men are U.S. citizens and stood trial in federal court before separate juries. They have been in custody since their arrests last June.
Both cases initially generated widespread interest because they raised concerns about a potential terrorist cell centered in the wine-producing region about 35 miles south of the state capital. But the government presented no evidence of a terror network during the nine-week trial.
Instead, the case centered on videotaped confessions the men gave to FBI agents and a government informant who secretly recorded hundreds of hours of conversations but whose credibility was challenged by the defense.
Prosecutors described Hamid Hayat as having "a jihadi heart and a jihadi mind" who returned from a two-year visit to Pakistan intent on carrying out attacks. Possible targets included hospitals, banks and grocery stores.
They presented no evidence to show that such attacks were imminent or even planned. But in closing arguments, a prosecutors said the case was intended to prevent terrorist attacks "long before anybody is hurt."
Defense lawyers for both men argued that the government didn't have a case against their clients because it had produced no evidence that the son ever attended a terrorist training camp.
Their biggest hurdle was trying to persuade jurors to discount the men's videotaped confessions. The statements were given separately last June during lengthy interrogations by the FBI in Sacramento.
Defense lawyers said the confessions were made under duress, after the men had been questioned for hours in the middle of the night.
The father and son eventually told the agents merely what they thought they wanted to hear, without realizing the legal consequences, their lawyers argued.
The trial is the result of what the government initially thought might be a much larger case. Its investigation into Lodi's 2,500-member Pakistani community began after agents received a tip in 2001 that Lodi-area businesses were sending money to terrorist groups abroad.
That investigation ultimately fizzled, but it did lead agents to Naseem Khan. The 32-year-old former Lodi resident was working a variety of fast-food and convenience store jobs in rural Oregon when agents approached him in October 2001, just a month after the terrorist attacks.
Khan, a Pakistani native who moved to the U.S. as a teenager, was recruited to infiltrate Lodi's Pakistani community.
He initially investigated the money laundering allegations and then targeted a pair of local imams before finally befriending Hamid Hayat. The Hayats grew to eventually consider Khan almost a member of the family.
After Hamid Hayat left for Pakistan in spring 2003, Khan kept in touch and recorded their telephone calls _ some of which show Khan urging Hayat to attend a jihadi camp.
In one conversation, Khan exhorted Hayat to "be a man - do something!"
Hamid Hayat's lawyers seized on such conversations to show that the FBI informant pushed Hayat to attend a training camp, but ultimately produced no evidence that he had.
They also questioned the informant's credibility, in part because of his own testimony. Khan said that just before he was recruited, he told FBI agents he had seen Osama bin Laden's physician and two other international terrorists living in Lodi during the late 1990s. At the time, they were wanted for attacks in the Middle East and Africa.
Defense attorneys and terrorism experts said it was highly unlikely they would have been in the U.S. at that time, a point prosecutors conceded later in the trial.
Comment: With a headline and a first few paragraphs like that, you'd think the story ends there, right?
Read the rest of the article, which includes more comments...
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Flashback: Flight 93 Movie Ignores Officially Reported Facts About The Fate Of Flight
Signs of the Times
While browsing the news websites recently, I noticed an advertisement for an upcoming movie about Flight 93 that 'crashed' in the Pennsylvannia countryside on September 11th 2001.
Here's the ad:
Without doubt, this is a deliberate government-sponsored/inspired attempt to further brainwash the masses about the truth of what happened on 9/11. Unfortunately for the Bush gang, the officially recorded events about the final moments of Flight 93 present us with some of the clearest evidence that the U.S. government is lying about what really happened to Flight 93, and by implication, about all other aspects of the 9/11 event.
Consider the following facts:
According to NORAD's initial statement, Flight 93 was hijacked at 9: 16 a.m., yet they were unable to say when the FAA notified them of the hijacking or how the FAA knew. Flight 93 is the only flight where NORAD could not at least supply this time of notification of hijacking. Despite this, the 9/11 Commission concluded that the hijacking of Flight 93 began at 9:28 a.m. saying only that the original statement by NORAD was incorrect without giving any explanation as to how or why such an error was made. At this same time, Cleveland flight controllers noticed Flight 93 climbing and descending in an erratic way, and shortly thereafter screams and shouts of "get out of here" were heard by controllers over the cockpit transmission. Arabic voices are also heard. At this point contact was lost with Flight 93. Yet despite this, we are told that no one notified NORAD. This single fact suggests that somewhere along the chain of command someone was preventing the implementation of standard procedures taken in respect of suspect aircraft, which is the immediate scrambling of fighter jets.
According to the 9/11 Commission, at 9:36 a.m. Cleveland flight control specifically asked the FAA Command Center whether someone had requested the military to launch fighters toward Flight 93. Cleveland offered to contact a nearby military base. The Command Center replied that FAA personnel well above them in the chain of command have to make that decision and were working on the issue.
At about 9:36 am Flight 93 made a 180 degree turn and headed back to Washington. Still no fighters were scrambled. So what exactly happened in that last minute before flight 93 hit the ground in Pennsylvania? Several eyewitness reports of the crash of Flight 93 attest to the presence of a white unmarked military-style jet over-flying the crash scene. The mayor of Shanksville, the closest town to where Flight 93 "crashed" stated:
From 9:30 am until Flight 93 "crashed", several passengers were alleged to have made calls to their family members and to phone operators specifying that a hijacking was taking place. According to NORAD, Flight 93 crashed at 10:03 am. However, a seismic study authorized by the US Army to determine when the plane crashed concluded that the crash happened at 10:06:05. Furthermore, according to a CNN report, the cockpit voice recording of Flight 93 was recorded on a 30-minute reel which started at 9:31am and ended at 10:02 am, with the last minute of recording apparently missing. This fact led some victim's family members to wonder if the tape had been tampered with.
"I know of two people - I will not mention names - that heard a missile, They both live very close, within a couple of hundred yards...This one fellow served in Vietnam and he says he's heard them, and he heard one that day." The mayor adds that based on what he knows about that morning, military F-16 fighter jets were very, very close.
Another eyewitness stated that he heard two loud bangs before watching the plane take a downward turn of nearly 90 degrees. It is also a matter of record that the debris of the crash was strewn across an area of approximately 8 miles. Ask yourself: how could parts of a commercial jet that allegedly hit the ground intact be 8 miles from the crash site!?
Even CNN reported that:
"Near the end of [Flight 93's] cockpit voice recording, loud wind sounds can be heard." And the UK Mirror then confirmed:
"Sources claim the last thing heard on the cockpit voice recorder is the sound of wind-suggesting the plane had been holed."
All of these facts are clearly consistent with the idea that Flight 93 was shot down. Heck, the evidence that Flight 93 was shot down is so stark that even Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld couldn't help blurting it out:
According to the CNN transcript of the event, while he was addressing U.S. troops in Iraq in December 2004, Rumsfeld made the following remark:
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: And to change
that way of living, would strike at the very essence of our country.
And I think all of us have a sense if we imagine the kind of world we would face if the people who bombed the mess hall in Mosul, or the people who did the bombing in Spain, or the people who attacked the United States in New York, shot down the plane over Pennsylvania and attacked the Pentagon, the people who cut off peoples' heads on television to intimidate, to frighten -- indeed the word "terrorized" is just that. Its purpose is to terrorize, to alter behavior, to make people be something other than that which they want to be.
Of course, if Flight 93 was shot down and did not crash as claimed by the US government and 9/11 Commission, not only does this pose serious questions about the authenticity of the alleged phone calls made by passengers to the effect that they were going to try and "do something" to take control of Flight 93 from the hijackers, but it throws all other facets of the official story of what happened on 9/11 into doubt..
Assuming some kind of government conspriracy then, how, you might ask, could the conspriators have possibly faked at least some of the famous cell phone calls?
Consider a 1999 report in the Washington Post entitled When Seeing and Hearing Isn't Believing, where it was stated:
"'Gentlemen! We have called you together to inform you that we are going to overthrow the United States government.' So begins a statement being delivered by Gen. Carl W. Steiner, former Commander-in-chief, U.S. Special Operations Command.
At least the voice sounds amazingly like him.
But it is not Steiner. It is the result of voice "morphing" technology developed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.By taking just a 10-minute digital recording of Steiner's voice, scientist George Papcun is able, in near real time, to clone speech patterns and develop an accurate facsimile. Steiner was so impressed, he asked for a copy of the tape.
Steiner was hardly the first or last victim to be spoofed by Papcun's team members. To refine their method, they took various high quality recordings of generals and experimented with creating fake statements. One of the most memorable is Colin Powell stating, 'I am being treated well by my captors.'
'Once you can take any kind of information and reduce it into ones and zeros, you can do some pretty interesting things', says Daniel T. Kuehl, chairman of the Information Operations department of the National Defense University in Washington, the military's school for information warfare.
Digital morphing - voice, video, and photo - has come of age, available for use in psychological operations. PSYOPS, as the military calls it, seek to exploit human vulnerabilities in enemy governments, militaries and populations to pursue national and battlefield objectives.
To some, PSYOPS is a backwater military discipline of leaflet dropping and radio propaganda. To a growing group of information war technologists, it is the nexus of fantasy and reality. Being able to manufacture convincing audio or video, they say, might be the difference in a successful military operation or coup."
"The nexus of fantasy and reality" indeed. Given the scope and depth of the conspiracy with which we are dealing, it is entirely possible that at least some of the cell phone calls that were made from the planes on 9/11 - if those reporting them are sincere and believe they received such calls - were actually the result of a 'real time' application of this voice morphing technology.
Who could forget the rousing reports of the "soldier citizens" on Flight 93 who courageously decided to "do something" about the hijackers with the words "let's roll"?
Mark Bingham, a California PR executive, was a passenger on Flight 93 and one of those involved in the alleged attempts to take back the plane. According to his mother, Bingham called her to tell her that his flight had been hijacked. Bizarrely however, the very first words that Bingham said to his mother, with whom he was very close by all accounts, were, "hi mom, this is Mark Bingham."
The only other words he is claimed to have said before hanging up were, "I love you".
Now think about this: Why would anyone use their full name when calling their mother?! Would you, in a similar circumstance, call your mother and announce your full name? Really stop and think about it a moment. Could this small and seemingly innocuous detail be an example of the faking of the cell phone calls and just one of the many flaws in the general cover-up attempts by the conspirators?
Due to these many striking facts that point to Flight 93 having been shot down, we decided that it was our duty to modifiy the Flight 93 movie advertisement in such a way that it more closely reflects the reality of the situation
For the full details of what really went on behind the scenes on the day of September 11th 2001 and a unique expose on who was ultimately responsible for the attacks, see Laura Knight-Jadczyk's new book 9/11:The Ultimate Truth
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Impeach Bush? Jail 'em all!
Almost 70 lawmakers sign Bush impeachment letter
Burlington Free press
Almost 70 Vermont legislators have signed a letter urging Congress to begin an investigation of President Bush's domestic surveillance program and the reasons for the war in Iraq and, which would lead to impeachment proceedings, if warranted.
The letter written by Rep. Richard Marek, D-Newfane, was signed by 56 members of the House and 13 members of the Senate. No Republicans have signed the letter.
The letter will be sent to the members of Vermont's congressional delegation.
Marek's letter asks Congress to hold hearings to determine if censure or "setting in motion the constitutional process for possible removal from office" are necessary.
"Vermonters from across the state have expressed concerns with the president's actions and have displayed that through resolutions, meetings and petitions," Marek said.
"I thought it was important to put our voices down as supporting an investigation and possible censure and impeachment," he said.
Earlier this month the Democratic State Committee urged Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against the president, but decided against asking the Legislature to join that call.
Democratic committees in at least eight Vermont counties have adopted similar resolutions.
On Town Meeting Day a number of towns also passed similar resolutions. The town of Newfane, which Marek represents, was the first community to call for Bush's impeachment.
Rep. Alice Emmons, D-Springfield, said she felt Bush's policies needed to be investigated.
"I feel as an American that what is happening is not right," Emmons said. "This administration needs to be investigated fairly and openly because what has happened has raised many questions."
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Fox analyst named Bush press secretary
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
WASHINGTON -- Acknowledging the challenges ahead, former Fox News analyst Tony Snow began his second stint at the White House on Wednesday, this time as press secretary.
President Bush appeared with Snow in the White House briefing room to announce his choice 15 years after the commentator was a speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush.
"As a professional journalist, Tony Snow understands the importance of the relationship between government and those whose job it is to cover the government," Bush said.
Snow thanked Bush and said he took the position because he believes in the president and wants to work with the White House press corps.
"These are times that are going to be very challenging," Snow said. "We've got a lot of big issues ahead, and we've got a lot of important things that all of us are going to be covering together, and I'm very excited and I can't wait."
Neither Bush nor Snow took questions from reporters during the brief announcement.
Snow takes the job as Bush's approval rating in opinion polls has reached a new low -- 32 percent -- and as the GOP-controlled Congress worries about winning the midterm elections.
As a commentator, Snow, 50, has had some critical things to say about the president.
For example, in a November 11 column, Snow wrote that Bush's "wavering conservatism has become an active concern among Republicans, who wish he would stop cowering under the bed and start fighting back against the likes of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Wilson."
"The newly passive George Bush has become something of an embarrassment," Snow wrote.
During the announcement, Bush shrugged off Snow's past commentary.
"He's not afraid to express his own opinions," the president said. "For those of you who've read his columns and listened to his radio show, he sometimes has disagreed with me. I asked him about those comments, and he said, 'You should have heard what I said about the other guy.' "
Snow will replace Scott McClellan, who announced last week he would step down during a West Wing makeover by Josh Bolten, the new White House chief of staff.
Snow officially will take over the post in two weeks.
Before agreeing to take the assignment, Snow had sought and received assurances from Bolten and other senior aides that he would be an active participant in major policy debates and would have a significant say in press and communications hiring, sources said.
The White House hopes that bringing in the conservative commentator will smooth the at-times combative relationship between the administration and press corps, which deteriorated during McClellan's tenure.
The White House press corps often viewed McClellan as not having the needed access to the administration's decision-making to be effective.
The administration approached Snow weeks ago about the job, and sources familiar with his deliberations said he had been focusing on family, financial and health issues before making up his mind.
Snow was diagnosed with colon cancer in February 2005 and had been awaiting medical clearance before reaching a final decision.
Sources said that over the past week, he discussed the post with an array of senior administration officials as well as aides in previous GOP administrations and Republicans close to the White House.
As one source put it, Snow wanted to "address some of his questions and build a comfort level" before giving Bolten a final decision.
Snow also had lunch with Bush to discuss his role, two GOP sources said.
During the administration of Bush's father, Snow was director of speechwriting. Most recently, he has been a weekend news anchor and political analyst for the Fox News Channel, which he joined in 1996. He also has hosted "The Tony Snow Show" on Fox News Radio.
In addition, he was a nationally syndicated columnist with The Detroit News in Detroit, Michigan, from 1993 to 2001 and was a columnist for USA Today from 1994 to 2000.
Before then, he was an editorial writer at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk; editorial page editor of The Daily Press in Newport News, Virginia; deputy editorial page editor of The Detroit News; and editorial page editor of The Washington Times.
McClellan became press secretary in July 2003 after his predecessor, Ari Fleischer, resigned. McClellan had been deputy press secretary under Fleischer.
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The West's Secret Marshall Plan For The Mind
JOHN P. C. MATTHEWS
Originally published in, and posted here with permission from the International Journal of Intelligence and Counter Intelligence, a Journal publication of the Taylor & Francis Group
n recent years the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has taken a beating from the press and public for its exposed "moles", its failures of commission -- the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade - and omission -- the events of 11 September 2001. And rightly so. Many believe it has grown so inflated and incompetent that the only solution is to scrap it and start over. It was not always thus.
During the days of the Cold War, when the cloud of nuclear annihilation still hung over the country, the CIA, for all of its deceptions, was one of the United States's most effective lines of defense. Not only did it amass vital information with its U-2 spy planes photographing Soviet reality on the ground, it helped to fight, with its many clandestine operations around the world, both the spread of Communism and the Communists' ability to absorb the areas they had already conquered. Radio Free Europe, broadcasting to Eastern Europe, and Radio Liberty, broadcasting exclusively to the Soviet Union, are two well-known examples. Additional subtle undertakings, such as the Congress for Cultural Freedom, have over time been revealed.1
But one CIA project was so subtle, because it was so natural, that it remains classified to this day. It intimately affected, and continues to affect, hundreds of thousands of educated people in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. While, over time, it consumed millions of dollars, it was probably one of the least expensive of the CIA's many secret operations. And it went on for thirty-seven years, lasting beyond the demise of the Soviet Union. Most important, well over ten million books and magazines--the best the West had to offer--were put into the hands of key individuals living in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
WALKER AND THE FREE EUROPE PRESS
One day in April 1956, on the fifth floor of the Normandy Building at 110 West 57th Street in Manhattan, a group of young Americans and East European exiles were meeting in their boss's smoke-filled office, chewing over a project they had been discussing for months. When the last person in the room had had his say, Sam Walker, who had called the meeting, took a pull on his pipe, blew out a long shaft of smoke and then, in a lisp his colleagues no longer noticed, said "O.K., Let'th do it!"
Neither Walker nor anyone else in that room had any inkling of what they were starting. The Cold War was still young. While Soviet leader Nikita S. Khruschev had recently delivered his secret speech denouncing Josef Stalin, the text had yet to reach the West. The summer and fall upheavals in Eastern Europe, resulting from that speech, had still to come. Nonetheless, it was an exhilarating time, with change and ferment in the air. One half of Europe had been unnaturally sealed off from the other half for the past eight years, and people sensed that this could not last much longer. But when it did, Americans grew so used to the division that Europe, whether referred to by diplomats or travel agents, meant only the western half. For the vast majority of Americans, the other half was now off the map.
Samuel S. Walker, Jr. was then in his late 20s. A former chairman of The Yale Daily News, he had been snatched upon graduation by Time magazine for a special training program designed to ensure the continuance of its top editorial management. But for a gap between his front teeth, he was as handsome as a movie actor, with a touch of Orson Welles's furrowed brow and poppy eyes. He laughed frequently, giving the impression that he found life as enjoyable as he found it interesting. He had tired of Time and been lured in early 1952 to the more exciting position of Director of Free Europe Press (FEP), a newly created sister organization of Radio Free Europe (RFE).
The East European employees of the Press were somewhat younger than their radio counterparts. And, thanks to Walker, the Americans, taken as a group, were not only young, but definitely left of center politically. This latter trait made for good rapport with their overseers in the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington -- Cord Meyer and Emmons Brown -- whom Walker and company, to shield their identity, referred to as "our friends down south." Only a handful of people on the Free Europe Committee and the leadership of RFE and FEP knew that the general direction and real funding for the organizations came from the Central Intelligence Agency, not the private funds noisily raised by the Crusade for Freedom. Most of the money was funneled though dummy, and possibly a few legitimate, foundations.
At its inception, Free Europe Press had established a monthly magazine with the prosaic title News from Behind the Iron Curtain. But the Press was better known for its for more dramatic program of dropping leaflets in Czech, Slovak, Polish, and Hungarian behind the Iron Curtain. Taking advantage of the prevailing west to east winds, they were dropped from high altitude by hydrogen-filled polyethylene balloons launched at night from three sites in Bavaria.
While the authors of these leaflets, and those handling the vast logistical side of this operation, were fully engaged, Walker and many of those in the New York office -- specifically those meeting that April day -- were somewhat underutilized. They spent no small amount of time scheming and speculating.
The "it" to which Walker referred when he said "Let'th do it" stood for "mailing project," something that had occurred to nearly all the East European exiles who had experimented with posting parcels to relatives back in their homelands. Free Europe mailings to individual people would be the reverse of the leaflet program. The leaflets, which were picked up randomly in fields and woods, were meant for the vast anti-Communist majority of the population. The mailings Walker and his colleagues had in mind would be special literature targeted for Communists or regime- friendly individuals for specific reasons.
Walker's decision ran counter to advice from one of the Free Europe Committee's chief consultants, Professor Hugh Seton-Watson of the University of London's School of Slavonic Studies. He said it simply wouldn't work; the Communist censorship would stop it cold. Walker's East European colleagues thought differently. Massive mailings would be more than the censors could handle.
The project envisaged postings from a few U.S., but mostly West European cities, and always to specific individuals, not from purloined East European telephone books. The messages -- according to the "Plan" published some months later by FEP's Plans and Analysis Department -- would be designed "to reduce the efficiency of the communist administration by weakening loyalty of the Party and state cadres."2
The principles which would govern selection were:
All materials must appear under "sponsorship" of a cover organization. There should be no total attacks on communism. Mailings should favor "revisionist" trends among the new elites. Practical alternatives to doctrinaire Marxist principles should receive high priority. Crossreporting (i.e., reports of what is going on in the other East European countries) should be used to demonstrate what might be possible in their country. Negative developments to weaken confidence in the bonafides of their government may be used. ...Our primary aim should be to demonstrate the superior achievements of the West.
American staff members thought there was no shortage of suitable material, in the form of articles and pamphlets, to fit within these guidelines, but the Hungarian editor, Robert Gabor, had his doubts. He preferred to stress the positive and begin with an original document of unchallengeable quality. Gabor was a close friend of Adolph Berle, then a vice president of the Free Europe Committee. He persuaded Berle to write an essay, "The 20th Century Capitalist Revolution." Gabor then had his fellow editor, Imre Kovacs, a left-wing Peasant Party writer of considerable renown in Hungary, translate it into good Hungarian.
The first mailings to Eastern Europe, begun in July 1956, were a hodgepodge of articles and cross-reporting, some translated, others simple reproductions of the originals in English, French, or German. They were sent from New York and a half-dozen West European cities in batches of anywhere from 200 to 2,000 per item. Almost all were from bogus "cover" organizations. In reality, the addresses were those of the persons mailing them. The volume nearly doubled in August, with mailings from Athens, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, London, New York, Paris, Rome, Vienna, and West Berlin.3
The first responses took several months to trickle back to the senders or, in some cases, the legitimate organizations that had allowed their names and addresses to be used. But, with one exception, they were disappointing. That exception was Poland. After four months of mailings, the third "Summary of Responses to Mailing Operations," dated 13 November 1956, reported no responses whatsoever from Bulgaria, a mere 13 from Czechoslovakia, 7 from Hungary, 1 from Romania, and 69 from Poland.
The Hungarian Revolution of October 1956, though a major setback for U.S. foreign policy, was disastrous for Free Europe, completely disrupting Free Europe Press operations. All balloon-leaflet flights were suspended -- forever, as it turned out -- and all mailings to Hungary were suspended for eight months. As it became clear that the balloons would never fly again, Free Europe Press's Munich office gradually became the headquarters for printing operations all over Western Europe.
Both the contents of the mailing campaign and the easily discernible bogus "cover" organizations soon alerted the Eastern European Communist authorities to the true origin of the mailings. Professor Seton-Watson's prediction that the Communist censors would defeat any mailing project began to look accurate. But, a surprising number of items did reach their targets, as the Hungarian newspaper Esti Hirlap (Evening Journal) indicated on 5 September 1957:
The Budapest telephone directory was the source of names and addresses of people who were accorded the great honor of receiving various products of the so-called Free Europe Committee. Week after week orange and blue colored envelopes came to Budapest, containing roughly translated, mimeographed newspaper articles and lectures mostly addressed to intellectuals.
But books--and there had been a few, such as George Orwell's 1984 and Albert Camus's The Rebel, particularly when mailed from the actual publisher--were a different matter. If they were not too political, they sometimes received acknowledgements and occasionally even a letter of thanks asking for more of the same.
An internal reorganization which took place at the Free Europe Press after the Hungarian Revolution was the decision to put the mailing project under one man. The person selected was not an American, but a Romanian exile, George Minden, who had entered the country in March 1955 only weeks before being appointed head of Free Europe Press's Romanian section. Then in his early 30s, Minden's handsome, longish Latin face featured dark, sad eyes every bit as arresting as those in a Byzantine mosaic.
He actually had left Romania with his wife and two children in 1946, a year after graduating in the top one percent of his class at the University of Bucharest's School of Law. After two months in Paris, he moved his family to London, where the following year his Romanian law degree was validated. He used the intervening time to earn a Teaching Diploma from Cambridge University. But, the collapse of his marriage led him to seek work outside of England. He served as Director of the Cartagena School of Foreign Languages in Spain from the fall of 1948 to June 1950. In 1952 he was made director of two language schools in Madrid. Then, in 1954, he moved to Mexico City, where he became Director of Studies for the Central School in the Paseo de la Reforma district. By the time he entered the U.S. the following year, he spoke flawless British English, Parisian French and Castilian Spanish, and was also well-versed in the literature of these three cultures.
Minden needed time to get full control. For most of 1957 the selection of articles, pamphlets, and occasional books continued to follow the heavily political "plan" and the whims of the editors of the country departments. The monthly report for May 1957, for instance, lists ninety-nine items mailed in April, fifty-five of which are clearly political, and others, such as the magazines Preuves, Der Monat and the Economist, could certainly be considered political by Communist censors. But, in the following month, when a total of 105 different items were dispatched, only 44 could be considered blatantly political.
WORKING WITH OTHERS
A new type of mailing introduced at this time consisted of a publisher's catalogue and the offer, on the publisher's stationary, of one or two books of the recipient's choice to be sent him free of charge. The note usually suggested that the recipient might send some books in return to make it appear a legitimate exchange, when in fact, the Western publisher had no use for books published in East European languages. This greatly increased the number of responses, as well as varying the type of books now being mailed in, albeit the volume of these requested books was much smaller.
Gradually, more and more books, such as Maurois's La France Change de Visage, and subscription offers to women's magazines like Marie Claire (French) and Madame (German) crept into the program. Though they could not have been justified under the original "plan," these diversions from the basic intent were nonetheless justified in the "Summary of Activities" with which Minden began each monthly report.
All policy direction came from the New York office. The Munich office of Free Europe Press, led by Howard S. Weaver, a somewhat older Yale friend of Sam Walker, had had the balloon-leaflet operation as its raison d'ętre. Nonetheless, it supplied many suggestions for the mailings, was instrumental in setting up the mailers around Western Europe, and recruited the agents who were to deal with publishers.
I had joined Free Europe Press as Editorial Advisor for the balloon-leaflet operations in April 1956 after two years in RFE's Central Newsroom. In June 1957, for instance, I noted that the Munich FEP office had suggested 40 of the 114 items mailed out that month. The Munich office also handled mailing from all West German cities, including West Berlin, and dealt directly with West German printers and publishers.
Warner Wolfe, an American of German extraction on the FEP Munich staff, was chiefly responsible for setting up the mailing network. In early 1957, he was also responsible for finding two highly intelligent, motivated young women to handle relations with publishers in France and England. His choices were brilliant. Martine Servot was a well-off, socially prominent young Parisian who worked full-time at the Louvre. Her small, deep-set blue eyes, high cheekbones and blond, bobbed hair made her look more Dutch or Danish than French. She had a university degree in library work and publishing. The fact that her husband, Jean, was a rising civil servant who would eventually become Director General of the French National Association of Employers, and that her uncle, Francois-Poncet, had been the French High Commissioner for French-occupied Germany, gave her entrée where she needed it.
Daisy Veszy, a young upper class émigré from Hungary, whose Oxbridge English, together with her soon-to-be acquired name, Finney, disguised her foreign origin, was a person whom Free Europe had earlier tried to recruit. She had luxuriant dark hair surrounding a pale and pretty face, from which flowed a mellifluent contralto voice. She married Jarlath Finney, a young English barrister, very shortly after she was hired. In the all-male bastion of British publishing, she found her femininity raising eyebrows, but the fact that she was charming, attractive and had a law degree of her own, invariably broke the ice. When a special connection was needed, her father-in-law was usually able to provide it.
And this was important. Both young women insisted on starting at the top. Both were also careful to deal with only one, or at the most two people in any one publishing firm. When Martine Servot first approached top publishing executives they assumed she was a society lady seeking free books for some charity benefit. They were "astonished" when they found she wanted to buy their books, and in considerable quantities. Mrs., Finney went first to the head of the Oxford University Press. In a letter to FEP's Warner Wolfe, dated 7 June 1957, she wrote:
I must say, it is a tremendous advantage to have Oxford University Press giving us a trade discount, because when dealing with any new publisher their name appears to be magic and they are immediately willing to give us a discount, e.g. Routledge.
As more publishers came aboard, and more catalogues were dispatched, an increasing number of responses was received, especially from Poland. By mid-summer 1957, the total had reached 1,489, with 1,377 of these from Poland. 4
Being so much closer to Eastern Europe than our colleagues in New York, we in Munich felt much more aware of the realities of life in the Communist sector. Western journalists almost always visited RFE immediately before taking up their assignments behind the Iron Curtain. And RFE was usually the first place they visited for debriefing when the reemerged. The FEP shared in the resulting reports, and we even commissioned some snooping of our own.
A report in my files from that time addressed to me came from Judith Friedberg ("J.F."), a freelance journalist who, because she visited Poland frequently, did not care to have her name appear on Free Europe stationary. Dated 9 October 1957, this report must have been passed immediately to Sam Walker, who passed it on to Minden.
Friedberg had just spent four months in Poland. With her nearly colloquial Polish she had talked to everybody who was anybody in Polish literary circles. She wrote:
The situation today is far different from what it was when overt propaganda was required ...What is required now is intelligent "ammunition handling," and by that I mean regular transmission of basic tools to the Poles who will use them and see to it that they are used ... "One O.E.D. [Oxford English Dictionary] is worth 10,000 pamphlets," said a friend of mine recently. "You have no idea how a really good reference work can be to you," ...
Most Polish reviewers today write their reviews from the book section of the London Times or the New York Times - when they can get them ...In the ultimate they dream of getting a few review copies.
Everywhere one goes in Poland one finds a tremendous hunger to catch up with the main literary and political trends abroad ... People want to be filled in on the last two decades. Remember the Nazi occupation left plenty of holes which the Reds have not bothered to plug.
I have handed out dozens of copies of "The God that Failed" and "Darkness at Noon," but the one that people most wanted was "The Portable Faulkner."
After five pages of this, Judy suggested six ways we might "cushion" Polish intellectuals, "either for greater democracy ... or for renewal of the Dark Ages,":
Arrange for key Polish reviewers to get review copies of a dozen books monthly from the U.S. and the U.K.; provide a reading shelf of the latest books for the Polish Writers' Union; forget the spatter technique of intermittent mailings to great numbers, it is ineffectual; instead provide a lifeline of periodicals; stop sending clippings and tearsheets which are not good in any language since they smack of organized activity; concentrate on intellectuals and professionals; send parcels the way CARE does, perhaps a "dictionary parcel" or a "war memoirs" parcel to be sent to libraries.
This scarcely fit the original FEP "plan." That document had even gone so far as to say "the purpose of the mailings is never mere spite."
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Gas? Or a Load of Hot Air?
Oil, Gas Prices Drop on Bush Supply Move - Analysts Say it Won't be Enough
By BRAD FOSS
Apr 25 8:29 PM US/Eastern
Crude oil and gasoline futures fell Tuesday after President Bush gave the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to relax regional clean-fuel standards to attract more imports of gasoline to the United States and to make it easier for supplies to be moved from one state to another.
President Bush also said he would halt deposits of oil to the nation's strategic petroleum reserve until the fall, but analysts said that measure would have next to no impact on crude prices and certainly would not help make gasoline any cheaper. Even the fuel-specification waivers will have a marginal impact, analysts said, given that the main force behind today's soaring pump prices is the near-record price of crude oil.
"If you have $75 a barrel crude oil, you're sort of at a starting point of $2.90 a gallon for gasoline," said Mary Novak, managing director at the economic consulting firm Global Insight.
Light sweet crude for June delivery settled 45 cents lower at $72.88 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, dropping on the heels of a 4.48-cents-per-gallon decline in May gasoline futures, which finished at $2.1291 a gallon.
Analysts said a floor remains underneath oil prices, which are 33 percent higher than a year ago, for a variety of reasons:
- With daily global demand roughly 85 million barrels per day, the world's oil producers have less than 2 million barrels per day of spare production capacity, and most of that is for Saudi blends of oil that are less ideal for manufacturing transportation fuels.
- Oil traders are nervous about geopolitical tensions ranging from violence in Nigeria to the West's nuclear standoff with Iran to the move toward greater nationalization of natural resources in energy- rich Venezuela.
- The global economy is expanding, and that means the thirst for oil is only going to grow.
- Speculative investors are piling into energy markets as a way to profit from soaring prices and geopolitical turmoil that could potentially be bad for equities prices.
In a further escalation of the war of words between Iran and the West, Iran threatened Tuesday to begin hiding its nuclear program if the West takes any "harsh measures" against it - Tehran's sharpest rebuttal yet to a U.N. Security Council Friday deadline to suspend uranium enrichment or face possible sanctions.
The United States, Britain and France claim Iran wants to use enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, not just electricity generation. Iran denies the charge, but Washington has been pressing fellow members of the Security Council to impose tough economic sanctions against Iran, which could affect its oil exports.
Nigerian exports are down because of violence there that prompted Royal Dutch Shell PLC to shut in 455,000 barrels per day of production, and more than 300,000 barrels per day of Gulf of Mexico output remains shut in as a result of damage from last summer's hurricanes. Also, Iraq's output has been hampered by continued sabotage of energy industry infrastructure.
Venezuela, another major oil producer, unsettled the market over the weekend by reasserting its intention to give the state greater control of oil fields being operated by foreign-owned oil companies.
Concerns about tight refining capacity and gasoline supplies in the U.S. ahead of the summer driving season are also propping up prices.
In the seven weeks ended April 14, gasoline stocks declined by more than 23 million barrels, according to last week's U.S. Energy Information Administration report.
In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures rose 2.64 cents to settle at $2.0581 per gallon, natural gas futures fell 30.4 cents to $7.254 per 1,000 cubic feet.
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Why Gas Prices Won't Go Down
By Elizabeth Douglass
LA Times Staff Writer
April 26, 2006
The steps proposed by President Bush on Tuesday to rein in soaring gasoline prices would do little to cut fuel costs for outraged motorists before the summer driving season, industry experts said.
That's because the factors driving today's record gasoline prices are varied and complex - and beyond the reach of presidential dictate. They include a shortage of refining capacity, rampant speculation in oil markets, oil company choices about fuel additives, unrelenting gasoline demand and high industry profits.
Even so, U.S. commodities traders seemed to give the president credit for the effort.
Prices on oil and gasoline markets fell after Bush halted government oil purchases for the strategic petroleum reserve and urged the Environmental Protection Agency to consider relaxing clean-fuel rules if gasoline supply problems emerge. The moves were aimed at keeping more oil on the open market and making it easier for refiners to deliver fuel where it is most needed.
"It took oil prices down, it took oil stocks down and it calmed the market," said Fadel Gheit, an oil industry analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York. But the proposals, he added, "aren't really going to do anything. It's good TV and gives the appearance of being in touch."
That appearance, already important in an election year, will be more so this week, as oil companies including giant Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. announce first-quarter profits that are expected to top previous records that generated anger at the pump and in Congress.
"They are going to be record, blockbuster, huge, given the fact of where these commodity prices are going," said John Kilduff, a senior vice president at commodities firm Fimat USA Inc. in New York.
Exxon Mobil took in about $1 billion a day in revenue in the last six months of 2005, which translated into profit of about $10 billion for each quarter.
The president's actions will do little to damp the oil prices that are behind the profits.
Industry experts point out, for example, that Bush's pledge to stop taking oil off the market to help fill the oil reserve is a move that would ease prices if there were a short-term supply crunch. Right now, however, the United States has plenty of oil.
"Crude oil supplies are at an almost eight-year high," Kilduff said. "The price is obviously not reflecting that. It's reflecting the worries about the future."
Oil passed the $75-a-barrel mark last week, largely because of concerns that geopolitical tensions over Iran's nuclear program could interrupt shipments from that country, the world's No. 2 exporter. Traders operating in a continuous state of what they call "petronoia" are worried as well about political turmoil affecting key suppliers such as Nigeria, Chad and Venezuela.
On Tuesday, oil for June delivery fell 45 cents to $72.88 a barrel in New York. After dipping as low as $2.07 a gallon after Bush's remarks, gasoline rebounded to finish the day down 4.48 cents to $2.129 on wholesale markets.
The high cost of oil, often passed quickly from the futures markets to daily crude purchases, is responsible for about half the price at the pump, experts say. But other factors also are pushing up current retail prices, which in California on Monday hit a record average of $3.068 for a gallon of self-serve regular, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.
Adjusted for inflation, the price of gasoline is just below its all-time high set in the early 1980s.
U.S. gasoline stockpiles have been drained in recent months because of lower output at domestic refineries - some still suffering from hurricane damage along the Gulf Coast and others undergoing longer-than-normal spring maintenance.
Gasoline traders also fretted that there could be supply glitches as some refiners switched to adding ethanol to summertime fuel instead of MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether - an additive known to contaminate groundwater. A government agency recently warned that such disruptions could increase price volatility and cause brief gasoline shortages.
Prompted by those worries, Bush ordered the EPA to be ready to grant clean-fuel waivers to counter any ill effects of the switch-over. That move also was viewed Tuesday as providing only limited relief, because many refiners are unlikely to change course by seeking a waiver just as the ethanol transition is nearing completion.
The nation's refiners "are pretty much committed regardless," said John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group in Washington. "The switch pretty much is going to be done by May 1, and that's Monday."
Analysts also said U.S. gasoline supplies should soon swell because more refineries have returned to full fuel production and tanker loads of imports are on the way. Barring new troubles, they said, retail prices should start falling on their own before Memorial Day.
Looking ahead, though, experts see a continuing struggle to keep up with steadily growing demand for oil as well as for gasoline, diesel and other fuels.
Rising fuel demand in the U.S., boosted largely by economic growth, has for years outpaced production from domestic refineries - making the market more susceptible to the availability and price of imported supplies. The same is true for oil.
The situation is made worse by the meteoric growth in oil and fuel consumption in the hot economies of India and China. Soaring demand there is straining the ever-precarious worldwide oil balance as well as creating stiff competition for imports.
Such deeply rooted problems are not easily or quickly solved, said Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, an industry research firm in Massachusetts.
"Every president who has problems with energy learns that there is not a lot you can do in the short term," said Yergin, author of "The Prize," a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the oil industry. "The system is overstressed ... and the truth is most of the [solutions] are medium-term or long-term."
What counts in the short term is demand, he said, noting that prices retreated when consumption dropped amid the price surge that followed last year's hurricanes. For immediate effects, Yergin said, "it's really not what the administration does - what really matters is what consumers do."
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Blame Everyone but the Culprit
By Jan Frel
April 26, 2006
With gas prices at an all-time high, Democrats, Republicans and President Bush are all quick to point blame. But they're ignoring the biggest offender: all of us.
As the price of gas hovers in the mid-$3 range across the country, and the price of gas rising on the poll charts as an issue of concern for American citizens, out come a series of dueling calls for federal investigations, tax cuts and trust-busting from the political leadership in Washington.
Leading the Democrats' charge has been New York senator and serial grandstander Chuck Schumer who called for a study to consider the break up of the oil industry and a federal investigation into price gouging on the part of oil companies. "The bottom line is that [oil companies and refiners] are producing at 85 percent capacity when they should be producing over 90 percent," Schumer told CNN. Congressional Republicans echoed Schumer, and then Bush waded in with an order to probe oil companies.
Bush's other big moves, announced this Tuesday, have been to relax clean fuel standards so that states with a high environmental bar for fuel emissions can burn dirtier fuel, and to divert shipments from the U.S. strategic oil reserve into the American market to increase supply -- good for 70,000 more barrels a day. And now Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez has proposed eliminating federal gas taxes for 60 days, taking the weight off of the cost of gas for the consumer by about 18 cents per gallon.
Meanwhile the media have recently begun pointing a pseudo-populist finger at retiring Exxon exec Lee Raymond's $400 million retirement package, marking him as sacrificial gouger-in-chief. Lee Raymond may well go down as one of the biggest corporate vampires in American history, but we aren't going to get any closer to dealing with gas prices on a long-term basis if this is just about Lee Raymond.
The problem with media and political responses like the ones we've heard so far is that they don't even begin to address the central reason why gas prices are going through the roof -- the global supply of oil is having a hard time meeting demand, and the United States is built to consume a quarter of all of it on a daily basis.
Not only this, Schumer's complaint about an unexplained 5 percent production margin and Bush's move to divert oil from the strategic reserve to gas stations displays how narrow the gap has become between full supply and fuel shortages. Seventy thousand barrels pumped into the American oil supply isn't going to do much for gas prices when you take into account that the United States consumes more than 20 million each day. Those are tinkering solutions at best, and they are a massive distraction from any kind of serious approach to the scale of what we're facing.
It may well be a fine thing for our politicians to break up the big oil companies, establish a windfall profits tax on them, open federal investigations into price gouging, and fund incentives for alternative fuels and lithium batteries, but none of them address the principal cause of all this demand for oil: the average car-driving American citizen.
And so, as with the Iraq war, where there has been no increase in taxes or military draft to pull in soldiers from a wider range of economic backgrounds, the American people aren't asked by their politicians to make any kind of sacrifice. The underlying message from Washington is: "We'll just work around your extreme gas consumption; you just keep doing what you're doing."
Moreover, what "solutions" like these reveal is an astounding lack of creativity and political will in Washington to envision a society that doesn't have automobiles as the fundamental unit of American life, as though this is the best outcome possible. Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tried to shame Bush by painting his ties to the oil industry as evidence of his collusion on the recent hike in gas prices: "... [Y]ou are too wedded to the oil companies. We have two oilmen in the White House. The logical followup from that is $3 a gallon gasoline. There is no accident. It is a cause and effect."
There may be a sliver of truth in what Pelosi said, but that's a placebo debate she's tried to start. Pelosi and the D.C. Democrats are equally complicit as the worst Bush big-oil Republicans in refusing to discuss how American oil demand is made possible by hundreds of U.S. garrisons all over the planet that guarantee a steady supply, and why Iraq and Iran have been objects of such fascination in American foreign policy for decades. Moreover, no one has taken into account the military costs of maintaining the price of gasoline at the mid-$3 level.
It's tempting to lay this at George Bush's feet, but the guilt stretches across the Washington political establishment. As James Howard Kunstler recently put it:
The right wing thinks we can still drill our way out of this, if only the nature freaks would allow them to. The "green" folks thinks that we can devote crops to the production of gasoline substitutes, even though a scarcity of fossil fuel-based fertilizers will sharply cut crop yields for human food. Nobody, it seems, can imagine an American life not centered on cars. ... Can we bust out of this narrow tunnel of fantasy? Can we imagine living differently?
We better, because the price of oil is only going to become more volatile as demand increases and supply becomes less predictable. Even Bill Clinton, who did virtually nothing in his eight years to address our auto dependency stated at a conference this March that "You may see $100 a barrel oil in the next two or three years."
Politicians and local governments have increasingly tried to address this on their own. The city of San Francisco, for example, recently passed a peak oil resolution, recognizing the reality of the threat that a dwindling global oil supply poses for urban existence. And increasingly nonprofits, oil theorists, experts in alternative energy fields and sustainability experts have come up with ideas about a post-oil American society, but none of them has access to the massive amount of power, reach and capital that the federal instrument does.
Dick Cheney once called the petro-dependent model of American life "non-negotiable." The recent political flap in Washington gives all signs that Cheney's wisdom isn't just his; it's conventional. Does it make sense for us to wait around until the president or Nancy Pelosi tells us that the price of gas has everything to do with us and the way we live? To do so would be a failure of imagination as bad as theirs.
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Preparing for the Economic Typhoon
by Mike Whitney
April 26, 2006
Gold traders love George Bush. They know that his blundering mismanagement of the economy will keep gold soaring well into the future. In the last year alone gold increased nearly $200 an ounce capping off a 5 year run that has taken it from $274 per ounce to $635 at Friday's close.
These are serious numbers and they reflect the uneasiness with the global political situation (Iran, Nigeria) as well as concern about the oceans of debt generated by our Oval Office numbskull.
Is it really possible for one man to single-handedly obliterate the world's most robust economy?
After 6 years of looting the public till, the cupboard is just about bare. Bush has chalked up another $3 trillion of public debt which sounds the death-knell for Social Security, public education, and the social safety net.
Think I'm kidding? Consider what new Fed-master Ben Bernacke said just yesterday, "If the dollar declined sharply, it would not necessarily disrupt markets".
That's right; the Fed is conspiring to reduce its debt payments by driving a wooden stake into the heart of the greenback. In three to six months the dollar will probably be valued at 1.40 to 1.50 per euro. That is, if the bottom doesn't fall out completely. After all, allies and enemies alike are pretty sick of the good old USA, so it wouldn't be out of the question for someone (perhaps, China) to start a sell-off that would end in disaster.
The dollar is now recognized as the empire's Achilles heel and the primary target for any asymmetrical warfare directed at America. If that means regime change at home, count me in. I'll worry about the wheelbarrow-loads of greenbacks for a loaf of bread some other time.
The Group of Seven industrialized nations (G-7) took a few swipes at Washington's profligate spending this weekend; warning that they wanted "more flexibility" in the Asian currencies. This is a clear sign that the path is being paved for a freefalling dollar while the other currencies gain ground.
How do you like the idea that half of your savings will be erased through executive fiat?
Since Bush took office the dollar has plummeted 30% against the euro. The only thing that has kept it from joining the peso is the skyrocketing oil prices which have allowed the Fed to keep the printing presses going at full tilt. That's because oil is denominated exclusively in dollars, so while the price per barrel continued upward, the Fed was able to circulate another $2.5 trillion of funny money. The high cost of oil has kept the dollar reasonably stable even though the twin-deficits have eroded its true value. Maintaining the monopoly on the sale of oil (which forces foreign central banks to hold billions of greenbacks in reserve) is critical to US prosperity. A switch to euros would weaken demand for the dollar and send the American economy into a tailspin.
Unfortunately, other countries are frustrated with the recklessness of the Bush team and are threatening to destabilize the system. First there was the danger of Iran opening an oil bourse that would compete head-on with the dollar; increasing the number of euros stockpiled in the central banks. Now, the Russian Finance Minister, Alexei Kudrin has fired a broadside at his American counterparts saying, "The US dollar is NOT the world's absolute reserve currency". He noted that the 'unsustainable' US trade deficit is "causing concern" and that "the international community can hardly be satisfied with this instability."
Kudrin's remarks were greeted with the shock one would expect from a dirty bomb on a crowded subway. America's global dominance requires that it maintain the dollar as the world's reserve currency; if that changes then the US will be unable to trade its painted-script for valuable resources. It would also mean that America would have to start paying back its $9 trillion national debt.
Kudrin's comments were interpreted to mean that Russia might ease away from the dollar in its oil transactions; a change that might spread to other countries that are equally skeptical of Uncle Sam's recklessness.
The eroding value of the dollar is just one of the economic crises facing the American people. A 6 month downturn in housing starts signals that the housing bubble, the largest equity bubble in history, is quickly losing steam. With long term interest rates steadily rising (along with energy prices) the shaky loans that were blessed by former Fed-chief, Greenspan, are beginning to unravel. "No down payment", ARMs (Adjustable Rate Mortgages) and easy financing have the over-extended American public teetering towards insolvency. Foreclosures are up, mortgages balances are at unprecedented levels, and inventories are larger than they've been since the early '90s. Last month produced the biggest slowdown in sales in a decade and the real pain hasn't even begun. At least $3 trillion of the $9 trillion equity bubble is built entirely on the cheap money pumped into the system by the Federal Reserve to keep the economy percolating while Bush and Co. stole every last farthing in the US Treasury. Greenspan's low interest rates were nothing more than a carnival-hucksters' scam to shift the vast wealth of America's middle class into the pockets of well-heeled constituents.
Last year Americans used their homes as a personal ATM; withdrawing over $600 billion to pay off credit card debt and for personal spending. That "presto-equity" is quickly evaporating as home prices flatten out and wages continue to stagnate. Personal debt is currently in the stratosphere and there are some gloomy signs that the American consumer, that great engine of global economic power, is finally tapped out. Consumer spending represents 70% of US GDP (Gross Domestic Product) so, as housing prices retreat and energy prices increase; Americans will face the greatest economic challenge since the Great Depression.
One thing is absolutely certain; Bush will stick by his constituents to the bitter end. It is physically impossible for him to act in the interests of the American people. He won't be deterred by the falling dollar, the deflating housing market, or the skyrocketing energy prices. He'll make his budget-busting tax cuts permanent and plunge the country into a sea of red ink.
Betting that George Bush will do the wrong thing for the nation is not a matter of conjecture; it is a mathematical certainty. He is deliberately destroying the middle class, the prospects for upward mobility, and the currency. The economic underpinnings of American democracy have been demolished in just 6 short years. Smart people will prepare themselves for the typhoon ahead.
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Bush threatens to veto bloated war-funds bill
By Richard Cowan
Tue Apr 25, 2006 7:29pm
WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush threatened on Tuesday to veto a bill to fund the war in Iraq and U.S. hurricane rebuilding after conservatives from his own party complained it was becoming bloated with special interest projects.
Bush, who has never vetoed a bill in more than five years as president, put the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate on notice that he could not go along with the $106.5 billion bill it was debating.
Democrats have been hammering away at the $3 trillion in new debt the Republican-controlled Congress and White House have presided over during the past five years. This fiscal year alone, the U.S. budget deficit could exceed $400 billion.
The administration had proposed about $92 billion in emergency funds for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and to continue rebuilding southern states hit by Hurricane Katrina.
"If the president is ultimately presented a bill that provides more than $92.2 billion, exclusive of funding for the president's plan to address pandemic influenza, he will veto the bill," a White House statement said.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, applauded Bush and said he "will support a veto, if necessary."
In March, Congress defied a veto threat from Bush and pushed ahead with legislation to stop a Dubai-owned firm from managing some American ports. Dubai Ports World abandoned that plan when the extent of Congress' opposition became clear.
Republicans are deeply divided over spending priorities in an election year.
The Senate could take up to two weeks to debate the $106.5 billion measure that includes $67.6 billion the Pentagon says it urgently needs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. About $27 billion would be added to the cleanup tab for Hurricane Katrina. Various other projects totaled nearly $12 billion.
On Tuesday, the Bush administration asked Congress to approve an additional $2.2 billion in emergency funds to strengthen levees around New Orleans. This would be in addition to almost $1.5 billion previously sought.
But the overall spending in the Senate bill is about $14.5 billion more than Bush requested and what has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Included in the added funding inserted by senators was aid for farmers who have suffered weather-related disasters, funds for the U.S. fishing industry and money to move a Mississippi railroad critics say would only help developers and casinos.
Calling it the "railroad to nowhere," Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, and some House conservatives vowed to delete the $700 million for the CSX railroad line. Before he became Bush's treasury secretary, John Snow was the company's chairman.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican, defended the railroad project, saying "the future well-being of that entire coast area would be enhanced if the railroad could be relocated."
Hart said Coburn will join efforts to delete $500 million in the bill that would help Northrop Grumman Corp. offset "business disruption expenses" in its Gulf Coast shipyards, saying such losses would likely be covered by insurers and pending litigation.
"We are overweight and overspending," said Rep. Tom Feeney, a Florida Republican, referring to spending bills in recent years that have contributed to huge federal budget deficits.
It is not unusual for members of Congress, especially in an election year, to tack special-interest projects onto "must-do" legislation, such as a war-funding bill.
Bloated spending has undercut Republicans' long-standing claims they are the party of fiscal responsibility.
Rep. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, said one need only look at huge federal expenditures over the past five years "if Republicans want to know why we're in the tank" with voters.
Comment: Yeah, maybe Amuricans didn't understand the "president" the first 20 times: BUSH is the decider. He makes all the decisions, and if you don't like his choices, tough luck.
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Faber says gold price may reach $US6000
By Mike Firn and James Poole in Tokyo
The Sydney Morning Herald
April 26, 2006
MARC FABER, who told investors to bail out of US stocks a week before the 1987 Black Monday crash and began recommending commodities at the end of 2001, said gold might rise tenfold in the next 10 years.
"If the Dow Jones [index] goes up three times in the next 10 years, I think gold prices will go up by a minimum 10 times to something like $US6000 an ounce," said Faber, 60, who founded Hong Kong-based Marc Faber Ltd and manages about $US200 million ($268.3 million).
The author of the newsletter The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report said gold wasn't expensive when "you compare its price to the quantity of money that has been printed in the last 10 to 15 years in the US and the world in general".
Gold for immediate delivery rose to $US645.85 an ounce on April 20, its highest in more than 25 years, as hedge funds and other speculators bought commodities to seek greater returns than from stocks and bonds. Former George Soros partner Jim Rogers forecast last week that gold would reach $US1000 an ounce.
The outlook for gold depended on how much money Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke "will print", Mr Faber said in an interview in Tokyo on Monday.
"As you know he has pronounced speeches about asset deflation," Mr Faber said, referring to Dr Bernanke. "He's concerned about real estate and stocks going down, so in the long run for sure he'll print money."
Pension and mutual funds are pumping record amounts of cash into commodities as China's booming economy stokes demand for oil and other raw materials, leading to a three-year boom in prices. The amount of money invested in index-linked commodity funds rose last year by as much as $US30 billion to $US80 billion, according to Barclays Capital. The amount might rise by 38 per cent this year to $US110 billion, the bank said.
Gold for immediate delivery reached a record $US850 in 1980.
Energy and uranium prices would continue to rise on growing Asian demand, Mr Faber said.
"Asian oil demand will double," he said. "We don't know whether that will be in eight or 15 years but for sure it will double and I don't think supplies will be able to match that."
Mr Faber has worked in Asia for more than 30 years. He served as managing director at the Hong Kong unit of Drexel Burnham Lambert from 1978 to 1990.
He did not rule out a big correction in commodity prices.
Still, that would not mean the end of the commodity boom.
"Between December 1974 and August 1976 the price of gold declined from $US195 to $US103," he said. "Then it still went up eight times."
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Wars, Debt and Outsourcing: The World is Uniting Against the Bush Imperium
By Paul Craig Roberts
Is the United States a superpower? I think not. Consider these facts:
The financial position of the US has declined dramatically. The US is heavily indebted, both government and consumers. The US trade deficit both in absolute size and as a percentage of GDP is unprecedented, reaching more than $800 billion in 2005 and accumulating to $4.5 trillion since 1990. With US job growth falling behind population growth and with no growth in consumer real incomes, the US economy is driven by expanding consumer debt. Saving rates are low or negative.
The federal budget is deep in the red, adding to America's dependency on debt. The US cannot even go to war unless foreigners are willing to finance it.
Our biggest bankers are China and Japan, both of whom could cause the US serious financial problems if they wished. A country whose financial affairs are in the hands of foreigners is not a superpower.
The US is heavily dependent on imports for manufactured goods, including advanced technology products. In 2005 US dependency (in dollar amounts) on imported manufactured goods was twice as large as US dependency on imported oil. In the 21st century the US has experienced a rapid increase in dependency on imports of advanced technology products. A country dependent on foreigners for manufactures and advanced technology products is not a superpower.
Because of jobs offshoring and illegal immigration, US consumers create jobs for foreigners, not for Americans. Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs reports document the loss of manufacturing jobs and the inability of the US economy to create jobs in categories other than domestic "hands on" services. According to a March 2006 report from the Center for Immigration Studies, most of these jobs are going to immigrants: "Between March 2000 and March 2005 only 9 percent of the net increase in jobs for adults (18 to 64) went to natives. This is striking because natives accounted for 61 percent of the net increase in the overall size of the 18 to 64 year old population."
A country that cannot create jobs for its native born population is not a superpower.
In an interview in the April 17 Manufacturing & Technology News, former TCI and Global Crossing CEO Leo Hindery said that the incentives of globalization have disconnected US corporations from US interests. "No economy," Hindery said, "can survive the offshoring of both manufacturing and services concurrently. In fact, no society can even take excessive offshoring of manufacturing alone." According to Hindery, offshoring serves the short-term interests of shareholders and executive pay at the long-term expense of US economic strength.
Hindery notes that in 1981 the Business Roundtable defined its constituency as employees, shareholders, community, customers, and the nation." Today the constituency is quarterly earnings. A country whose business class has no sense of the nation is not a superpower.
By launching a war of aggression on the basis of lies and fabricated "intelligence," the Bush regime violated the Nuremberg standard established by the US and international law. Extensive civilian casualties and infrastructure destruction in Iraq, along with the torture of detainees in concentration camps and an ever-changing excuse for the war have destroyed the soft power and moral leadership that provided the diplomatic foundation for America's superpower status. A country that is no longer respected or trusted and which promises yet more war isolates itself from cooperation from the rest of the world. An isolated country is not a superpower.
A country that fears small, distant countries to such an extent that it utilizes military in place of diplomatic means is not a superpower. The entire world knows that the US is not a superpower when its entire available military force is tied down by a small lightly armed insurgency drawn from a Sunni population of a mere 5 million people.
Neoconservatives think the US is a superpower because of its military weapons and nuclear missiles. However, as the Iraqi resistance has demonstrated, America's superior military firepower is not enough to prevail in fourth generation warfare. The Bush regime has reached this conclusion itself, which is why it increasing speaks of attacking Iran with nuclear weapons.
The US is the only country to have used nuclear weapons against an opponent. If six decades after nuking Japan the US again resorts to the use of nuclear weapons, it will establish itself as a pariah, war criminal state under the control of insane people. Any sympathy that might still exist for the US would immediately disappear, and the world would unite against America.
A country against which the world is united is not a superpower.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: email@example.com
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Wisconsin Bill would prohibit mandatory microchip implants
RYAN J. FOLEY
April 24, 2006
MADISON, Wis. - Former Gov. Tommy Thompson was one of the first high-profile supporters of tiny microchips implanted in people's arms that would allow doctors to access medical information.
Now the state he used to lead is poised to become the first to ban governments and private businesses from forcing such implants on employees, privacy advocates say.
A proposal moving through the state Legislature would prohibit anyone from requiring people to have the tiny chips embedded in them or doing so without their knowledge. Violators would face fines of up to $10,000.
The plan authored by Rep. Marlin Schneider, D-Wisconsin Rapids, won approval in the Assembly last month. The state Senate on Tuesday is scheduled to consider the measure, which would allow for the implants if the person gives consent.
Gov. Jim Doyle would sign the bill, a spokesman said.
Schneider aides say the legislator wants the law in place before companies and governments could use them to keep track of their employees.
"I don't think most people had thought about this as an issue, but it's scary. It's reality now," said Michael Schoenfield, an aide to Schneider. "Companies can or will be ordering their employees to have chips implanted. We want to stop that before it begins."
VeriChip Corp. of Delray Beach, Fla., is the only company with federal approval to implant such chips in people. The company so far has implanted 2,500 people worldwide with chips the size of a grain of rice under the skin of their upper arms, said spokesman John O. Procter.
Thompson endorsed this application last year as a way to give hospitals easy access to patients' medical records when he joined VeriChip's board of directors and vowed to "get chipped" himself.
Procter said Monday that Thompson has not undergone the procedure, which he likened to getting a shot, but plans to do so once more hospitals adopt the technology. The chips give off a radio frequency signal identifying a patient. The signal is used to access personal information in an Internet database.
VeriChip is also marketing the implants as a way for companies or governments to limit access to high-security areas.
In February, a Cincinnati surveillance equipment company became the first U.S. business to use this application when a handful of employees voluntarily got implants to allow them to enter secure rooms. Some employees in the Mexico attorney general's office have also been implanted with chips, whose signals are recognized by readers in doorways.
Procter said VeriChip supports the spirit of Schneider's bill and would not work with companies forcing employees to get implants. However, he said the implants are superior to employee badges or key chains as a way to limit access.
"It's more secure. It's discreet and it can't be lost or stolen," he said.
Privacy advocates say they are unaware of any companies forcing implants but are worried the technology is taking off with little debate about potential abuses.
Wisconsin would be the first state to ban mandatory implants, said Katherine Albrecht, a New Hampshire privacy advocate and co-author of "Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID."
Albrecht said she recently handed Thompson a copy of her book when he was in New Hampshire giving a speech.
"What an interesting irony that the foremost chip promoter in the world comes from Wisconsin and Wisconsin would be the first state to say, 'Hey, at least get our permission first'," Albrecht said. "It's good that lawmakers in Wisconsin are paying attention to the fact that this technology even exists."
The proposal would leave the door open for the state to order implants to track sex offenders or for parents to track their children under an amendment offered by Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford. Such applications are years away because the chips do not yet allow for surveillance tracking.
"The bill may be a little ahead of its time but I think it prevents some very onerous activity," Suder said. "It is groundbreaking."
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EU draft law to recommend jail for pirating goods
April 25, 2006
BRUSSELS - The European Commission is set to recommend on Wednesday common European sanctions against counterfeiting and piracy of goods, including at least four years in prison and a 300,000 euro ($372,700) fine.
The seizure of counterfeited goods at the borders of the
European Union increased by 1,000 percent between 1998 and 2004, with 103 million counterfeited and pirated items seized in 2004, Commission figures show.
Different penalties in the 25 EU countries make it difficult to combat counterfeiting and piracy effectively, says the EU executive in the draft legislation, obtained by Reuters.
The draft legislation deals only with sanctions for infringements of intellectual property rights on a commercial scale, and not downloading of music via the Internet for private use.
The EU executive recommends that offences should be punishable by at least 4 years' jail and a fine of at least 100,000 to 300,000 euros. The fine should be higher when there is a health or safety risk.
Other possible measures are the confiscation or destruction of the objects, and a permanent or temporary ban on offenders from engaging in commercial activities.
The draft legislation is a revised version of a text tabled last year by the EU executive, with a tougher legal base with which EU countries could be brought to court if they fail to implement the common sanctions, an EU official said.
The EU and the United States are exerting growing pressure on China, considered as one of the main sources of counterfeiting. U.S. industry groups estimate 90 percent of DVDs, music CDs and software sold in China are pirated.
The United States warned on Tuesday that they did not rule out complaining to the World Trade Organization against China.
The draft legislation is to be adopted jointly by EU governments and the European Parliament.
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New search engine could boost Arab Internet usage
By Andrew Hammond
Tue Apr 25, 12:11 PM ET
RIYADH - A Saudi-German plan to launch a dedicated Arabic language search engine for the World Wide Web could revolutionize the moribund Arabic Internet market, a senior official in the project said.
"Sawafi," planned for the last quarter of 2006, could also set a tough challenge for international search giants such as Google, MSN and Yahoo, which offer a basic Arabic search facility at present.
"There is no (full) Arabic Internet search engine on the market. You find so-called search engines, but they involve a directory search, not a local search. There's nothing available for overall Internet search," Hermann Havermann, managing director of German Internet tech firm Seekport, told Reuters.
"If you look at the international search engines, their functionality is non-existent. This market really lacks the support of an Arabic search engine," he said.
Seekport unveiled the project with Saudi partner Integrated Technical Solutions in Riyadh this week. The company, Sawafi, is registered in the Gulf Arab business hub of Dubai.
Sawafi is hoping to copy the success of local Chinese language search engine Baidu, which has made huge strides in a market with over 100 million Web surfers.
Everything is to play for in the Arab world of 280 million people, where Internet penetration is low. There are also large expatriate Arab communities in Europe and North America.
"There are only 100 million Web pages right now in Arabic, and that's nothing. It's only 0.2 percent of the total worldwide," Havermann said.
Research commissioned from Dubai-based Internet researcher Madar shows the number of Arabic Internet users could jump to 43 million in 2008 from 16 million in 2004, Havermann said.
According to Madar, 65 percent of Arab Internet users in 2005 could not read English, which accounts for 70 percent of the material on the Internet.
Better search engines are key to a turnaround.
"There is not enough Arabic content available on the Internet. But there's no motivation to put more Arabic content on the Internet as long as you don't have a system to find the content," Havermann said.
Saudi Arabia, with an affluent population of 24 million, and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates would be key places for winning online advertising to fuel Arabic search engines.
"Search engines are dependent on income from advertising, and for this you need partners and marketing agencies. They are in Dubai," Havermann said. "On the other side, the Arabic user market is in Saudi Arabia."
The Arabic online advertising market could grow to $150 million in 2008 from $10 million at present, he said.
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Britain On the Road To Facism
Outrage at British interior minister over foreign criminal blunder
Wed Apr 26, 2:30 AM ET
LONDON - Home Secretary Charles Clarke faced calls to quit after admitting that more than 1,000 foreign criminals, including murderers and rapists, were set free in Britain instead of being deported.
Newspapers expressed outrage and disbelief at the fiasco, the latest to hit a member of Prime Minister
Tony Blair's government in recent months.
The interior minister revealed Tuesday that between February 1999 and March 2006, 1,023 convicted foreigners who should have been considered for deportation after leaving jail were released with no further action taken.
More than 900 of these people are still unaccounted for and Clarke said the whereabouts of most were unknown.
Three murderers, nine rapists, five child molesters and 20 drug smugglers are among the freed prisoners.
"I think it was a shocking failure by the Home Office and by everybody involved including me," Clarke told the BBC late Tuesday, reiterating an earlier apology for the mess.
The minister has so far shrugged off any suggestion of resignation, however, saying he will only go if he fails to rectify things.
"I have considered the question of resignation, I can assure you, and the consideration I have made is that it is my duty and certainly my responsibility to put these matters straight and that is what I intend to do," Clarke said.
But Wednesday's British press turned up the heat with a barrage of screaming headlines, critical editorials and subtle political cartoons depicting the minister.
"What criminal incompetence," the right-wing Daily Mail splashed across its front page, while the Daily Mirror tabloid went with: "Criminal blunder".
The Sun, Britain's best-selling newspaper, took the strongest line against the home secretary, demanding his resignation in an editorial entitled: "Clarke must go".
It dismissed as insufficient an admission by the minister that the public was entitled to be concerned about the blunder, adding: "People are entitled to the home secretary's resignation -- or instant dismissal for rank negligence."
The Daily Mirror, for its part, highlighted the dangers of known murderers and paedophiles roaming unchecked about the streets of Britain.
"Mistakes happen in all governments, but this ranks among the most serious and was entirely avoidable," it said."
The Times newspaper said the Home Office, once referred to as the "dustbin" of ministries because of the enormous range of responsibilities it used to shoulder, should now be known as the "sieve", alluding to its many holes.
The daily warned: "If the 'sieve' that the home office has been does not become more secure, and the offenders are not identified and located, there is every reason for Mr Clarke to fear for his job security."
Opposition parties seized the moment to attack the government ahead of local elections in England next week.
David Davis, home affairs spokesman for the main opposition Conservatives, said it was the latest in a long line of failures to threaten public safety.
"This serial incompetence beggars belief," he said.
In a statement released Tuesday, Clarke said the error was made because the Prison Service was not focused on the nationality of its prisoners while the immigration authorities were concerned with other matters.
He also highlighted a jump in the number of foreign prisoners in England and Wales from 4,300 in 1996 to more than 10,000 at the end of February.
The Immigration and Nationality Directorate has so far tracked down 107 of the former convicts, leading to 20 deportations, Clarke added.
The mistake came to light after a House of Commons committee asked questions about released foreign prisoners at a hearing last October.
A raft of problems -- such as a furore over election campaign financing and a legal row embroiling the estranged husband of Culture and Sports Minister Tessa Jowell -- have helped send support for Blair's Labour Party to a near 20-year low, a poll revealed on Tuesday.
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The Quiet Death Of Democracy
People ask: Can this be happening in Britain? Surely not. A centuries-old democratic constitution cannot be swept away. Basic human rights cannot be made abstract. Those who once comforted themselves that a Labour government would never commit such an epic crime in Iraq might now abandon a last delusion, that their freedom is inviolable. If they knew.
The dying of freedom in Britain is not news. The pirouettes of ambition of of the prime minister and his political twin, the treasurer, are news, though of minimal public interest. Looking back to the 1930s when social democracies were distracted and powerful cliques imposed their totalitarian ways by stealth and silence, the warning is clear. The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill has already passed its second parliamentary reading without interest to most Labour MPs and court journalists; yet it is utterly totalitarian in scope.
Presented by the government as a simple measure for streamlining de-regulation, or "getting rid of red tape", the only red tape it will actually remove is that of parliamentary scrutiny of government legislation, including this remarkable bill. It will mean that the government can secretly change the Parliament Act and the constitution and laws can be struck down by decree from Downing Street. Blair has demonstrated his taste for absolute power in his abuse of the royal prerogative, which he has used to bypass parliament in going to war and in dismissing landmark High Court judgements, such as that which declared illegal the expulsion of the entire population of the Chagos islands, now the site of an American military base. The new bill marks the end of true parliamentary democracy; in its effect, it is as significant as the US Congress last year abandoning the bill of rights.
Those who fail to hear these steps on the road to dictatorship should look at the government's plans for ID cards, described in its manifesto as "voluntary". They will be compulsory and worse. An ID card will be different from a driving licence or passport. It will be connected to a database called the NIR (National Identity Register), where your personal details will be stored. These will include your fingerprints, a scan of your iris, your residence status and unlimited other details about your life. If you fail to keep an appointment to be photographed and fingerprinted, you can be fined up to 2,500 pounds.
Every place that sells alcohol or cigarettes, every post office, every pharmacy and every bank will have an NIR terminal where you can be asked to "prove who you are". Each time you swipe it, a record is made at the NIR. This means that the government will know every time you withdraw more than 99 pounds from your bank account. Restaurants and off-licences (liquor stores) will demand that the card is swiped so that they are indemnified from prosecution. Private business will have full access to the NIR. If you apply for a job, your card will have to be swiped. If you want a London Undergound Oyster card, or a supermarket loyalty card, or a telephone line or a mobile phone or an internet account, your card will have to be swiped.
In other words, there will be a record of your movements, your phone records and shopping habits, even the kind of medication you take.
These databases, which can be stored in a device the size of a hand, will be sold to third parties without you knowing. The ID card will not be your property and the Home Secretary will have the right to revoke or suspend it at any time without explanation. This would prevent you drawing money from a bank. ID cards will not stop or deter terrorists, as Home Secretary Charles Clarke has now admitted; the Madrid bombers all carried ID. On 26 March, the government silenced the last parliamentary opposition to the cards when it ruled that the House of Lords could no longer block legislation contained in a party's manifesto. The Blair clique does not debate. Like the zealot in Downing Street, its "sincere belief" in its own veracity is quite enough. When the London School of Economics published a long study that effectively demolished the government's case for the cards. Charles Clarke abused it for feeding a "media scare campaign". This is the same minister who attended every cabinet meeting at which Blair's lies over his decision to invade Iraq were clear.
This government was re-elected with the support of barely a fifth of those eligible to vote: the second lowest since the franchise. Whatever respectability the famous suits in television studios try to give him, Blair is demonstrably discredited as a liar and war criminal. Like the constitution-hijacking bill now reaching its final stages, and the criminalising of peaceful protest, ID cards are designed to control the lives of ordinary citizens (as well as enrich the new Labour-favoured companies that will build the computer systems). A small, determined, and profoundly undemocratic group is killing freedom in Britain, just as it has killed literally in Iraq. That is the news. "The kaleidoscope has been shaken," said Blair at the 2001 Labour Party conference. "The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us."
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