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The most successful tyranny is not the one
that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the
awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable
that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an
"This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it." - Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural
It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong. --Voltaire--
consciousness is freedom
Life is religion. Life experiences reflect how one interacts with God. Those who are asleep are those of little faith in terms of their interaction with the creation. Some people think that the world exists for them to overcome or ignore or shut out. For those individuals, the worlds will cease. They will become exactly what they give to life. They will become merely a dream in the "past." People who pay strict attention to objective reality right and left, become the reality of the "Future." [Cassiopaea 09-28-02]
April 11, 2003 Today's edition of Brought to You by The Bush Junta, Produced and Directed by the CIA, based on an original script by Henry Kissinger, with a cast of billions....The "Greatest Shew on Earth," no doubt, and if you don't have a good sense of humor, don't read this page! It is designed to reveal the "unseen." If you can't stand the heat of Objective Reality, get out of the kitchen!
John Pilger: They have blown off the limbs of women and the scalps of children. Their victims overwhelm the morgues and flood into hospitals that lack even aspirin. John Pilger on a piratical war that brought terrorism and death to Iraq.
A BBC television producer, moments before he was wounded by an American fighter aircraft that killed 18 people with "friendly fire", spoke to his mother on a satellite phone. Holding the phone over his head so that she could hear the sound of the American planes overhead, he said: "Listen, that's the sound of freedom."
Did I read this scene in Catch-22? Surely, the BBC man was being ferociously ironic. I doubt it, just as I doubt that whoever designed the Observer's page three last Sunday had Joseph Heller in mind when he wrote the weasel headline: "The moment young Omar discovered the price of war". These cowardly words accompanied a photograph of an American marine reaching out to comfort 15-year-old Omar, having just participated in the mass murder of his father, mother, two sisters and brother during the unprovoked invasion of their homeland, in breach of the most basic law of civilised peoples
No true epitaph for them in Britain's famous liberal newspaper; no honest headline, such as: "This American marine murdered this boy's family". No photograph of Omar's father, mother, sisters and brother dismembered and blood-soaked by automatic fire. Versions of the Observer's propaganda picture have been appearing in the Anglo-American press since the invasion began: tender cameos of American troops reaching out, kneeling, ministering to their "liberated" victims.
And where were the pictures from the village of Furat, where 80 men, women and children were rocketed to death? Apart from the Mirror, where were the pictures, and footage, of small children holding up their hands in terror while Bush's thugs forced their families to kneel in the street? Imagine that in a British high street. It is a glimpse of fascism, and we have a right to see it.
"To initiate a war of aggression," said the judges in the Nuremberg trial of the Nazi leadership, "is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." In stating this guiding principle of international law, the judges specifically rejected German arguments of the "necessity" for pre-emptive attacks against other countries.
Nothing Bush and Blair, their cluster-bombing boys and their media court do now will change the truth of their great crime in Iraq. It is a matter of record, understood by the majority of humanity, if not by those who claim to speak for "us". As Denis Halliday said of the Anglo-American embargo against Iraq, it will "slaughter them in the history books". It was Halliday who, as assistant secretary general of the United Nations, set up the "oil for food" programme in Iraq in 1996 and quickly realised that the UN had become an instrument of "a genocidal attack on a whole society". He resigned in protest, as did his successor, Hans von Sponeck, who described "the wanton and shaming punishment of a nation".
I have mentioned these two men often in these pages, partly because their names and their witness have been airbrushed from most of the media. I well remember Jeremy Paxman bellowing at Halliday on Newsnight shortly after his resignation: "So are you an apologist for Saddam Hussein?" That helped set the tone for the travesty of journalism that now daily, almost gleefully, treats criminal war as sport. In a leaked e-mail Roger Mosey, the head of BBC Television News, described the BBC's war coverage as "extraordinary - it almost feels like World Cup football when you go from Um Qasr to another theatre of war somewhere else and you're switching between battles".
He is talking about murder. That is what the Americans
do, and no one will say so, even when they are murdering
journalists. They bring to this one-sided attack on a weak and
mostly defenceless people the same racist, homicidal intent I
witnessed in Vietnam, where they had a whole programme of murder
called Operation Phoenix. This runs through all their foreign wars,
as it does through their own divided society. Take your pick of the
current onslaught. Last weekend, a column of their tanks swept
heroically into Baghdad and out again. They murdered people along
the way. They blew off the limbs of women and the scalps of
children. Hear their voices on the unedited and unbroadcast
videotape: "We shot the shit out of it." Their victims overwhelm
the morgues and hospitals - hospitals already denuded of drugs and
painkillers by America's deliberate withholding of $5.4bn in
humanitarian goods, approved by the Security Council and paid for
by Iraq. The screams of children undergoing amputation with minimal
anaesthetic qualify as the BBC man's "sound of freedom"..
Is Killing Part of Pentagon Press Policy? The Pentagon has held up its practice of "embedding" journalists with military units as proof of a new media-friendly policy. On April 8, however, U.S. military forces launched what appeared to be deliberate attacks on independent journalists covering the war, killing three and injuring four others.
In one incident, a U.S. tank fired an explosive shell at the Palestine Hotel, where most non-embedded international reporters in Baghdad are based. Two journalists, Taras Protsyuk of the British news agency Reuters and Jose Cousa of the Spanish network Telecino, were killed; three other journalists were injured. The tank, which was parked nearby, appeared to carefully select its target, according to journalists in the hotel, raising and aiming its gun turret some two minutes before firing a single shell.
Journalists who witnessed the attack unequivocally rejected Pentagon claims that the tank had been fired on from the hotel. "I never heard a single shot coming from any of the area around here, certainly not from the hotel," David Chater of British Sky TV told Reuters (4/8/03). Footage shot by French TV recorded quiet in the area immediately before the attack (London Independent, 4/9/03).
Earlier in the day, the U.S. launched separate but near-simultaneous attacks on the Baghdad offices of Al Jazeera and Abu Dhabi TV, two Arabic-language news networks that have been broadcasting graphic footage of the human cost of the war. Both outlets had informed the Pentagon of their exact locations, according to a statement from the Committee to Protect Journalists. As with the hotel attack, Pentagon officials claimed that U.S. forces had come under fire from the press offices, charges that were rejected by the targeted reporters. more..
DC Sniper Iraq Connection No, we are not
suggesting that Iraq had anything to do with the sniper attacks in
the Washington D.C. area last October. But there may be a
connection to the U. S. war against Iraq.
On Wednesday, October 2, 2002 House Speaker Dennis Hastert, on his own behalf and that of Minority Leader Richard Gephardt introduced the bill (H. J. Res 114) to authorize the use of armed force against Iraq. It was refereed to the International Relations Committee.
On that same day the first two sniper shootings in the D.C. area occurred. The first only shattered a window at a Michaelâs craft store. The second killed James Martin in a grocery store parking lot.
On Thursday, October 3 the bill was reported out of the International Relations Committee for the beginning of debate.
On the same day the sniper killed five people in a span of less than 14 hours.
On Friday, October 4 (as debate on the bill continued) a woman was shot and wounded outside of a craft store.
On Monday, October 7 (as debate resumed after the weekend) a 13 year-old boy was wounded arriving at school.
On Wednesday, October 9 (as debate on the bill continued) a man was killed while filling his gas tank.
On Thursday, October 10 the House passed the bill and sent it to the Senate.
On Friday, October 11 the Senate passed the bill.
On the same day another man was killed while filling his gas tank.
On Monday, October 14 an FBI employee was killed outside a store.
On Tuesday, October 15 the bill was sent to the president for signature.
On Wednesday, October 16, the president signed the bill into law.
On ÎSaturday, October 19 a man was killed outside a Ponderosa restaurant.
On Wednesday, October 23, the last sniper killing was a 35 year-old bus driver.
On Wednesday, October 23 Chief Charles Moose repeated the strange phrase on television he said the sniper had requested in a note left at the scene of one of the killings, we have caught the sniper like a duck in a noose. John Muhammad and Lee Malvo were arrested less than ten hours later while sleeping in their car in the main part of a rest stop. Muhammad's wallet with several false I.D.'S in it was on the hood of the car.
Many, including this writer, believe that strange phrase was used to trigger a post-hypnotic command to Muhammad and Malvo. The command obviously would have been to stop the killing and make yourselves available for capture.
The trigger phrase would have to have been unique so the snipers wouldnât hear it at random. If this is the case, it certainly was not Muhammad or Malvo who requested the phrase be read on television. Their actions at the rest stop were not those of even a deranged killer not under some kind of mind control.
At any rate, it appears to this writer that Muhammad and Malvo were being manipulated by someone as in the classic movie, ãThe Manchurian Candidate.ä
From introduction of the Iraq 'war' resolution on October 2nd through all the debate, votes in the House and Senate and the signing of the bill into law, the headlines and the and the nationâs attention were riveted on the hunt for the D.C. sniper and on his victims.
Was the timing of the sniper killings and the movement of the Iraq war resolution through congress just a coincidence? Perhaps.
Robert Fisk: Baghdad: the day after.
Arson, Anarchy, Fear, Hatred,
Israel Tells Palestinians To Heed Iraq - More Die. An Israeli missile strike has killed a Palestinian bomb-making expert in Gaza and gunmen have killed two Israeli soldiers in the West Bank in a surge of violence ahead of an anticipated U.S.-led peace drive.
Israel on Thursday said it hoped the fall of Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein would chasten Palestinian militants into
laying down their arms.
Israeli security sources said the man killed by
helicopter gunship fire was Mahmoud al-Zatma, accused by Israel of
preparing explosives for
The army said that in Thursday's pre-dawn attack in the West Bank, gunmen cut through a fence around an army base in the Jordan Valley and opened fire at a tent housing soldiers, killing two and wounding nine before being shot dead. Violence in the Palestinian uprising for independence had tapered off since the Iraq war began on March 20, but fighting has been on the rise this week. Israeli strikes and raids have killed 13 Palestinians in Gaza in three days.
The bloodshed runs counter to Washington's calls for calm
before it introduces a long-delayed programme for Middle East
"The result of this new assassination will be resistance
and response," he told Reuters in Gaza after al-Zatma's
death. The Israeli army had no immediate comment on the missile
strike. Israel has tracked and killed dozens of militants during
Elsewhere in the West Bank, an Israeli army unit on a
raid exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen in the town of Tulkarm,
killing one and wounding four, an Israeli military source
said. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank town of
Salfit said they had shot dead a 65-year-old Palestinian land
broker suspected of
April 10, 2003 Today's edition of Brought to You by The Bush Junta, Produced and Directed by the CIA, based on an original script by Henry Kissinger, with a cast of billions....The "Greatest Shew on Earth," no doubt, and if you don't have a good sense of humor, don't read this page! It is designed to reveal the "unseen." If you can't stand the heat of Objective Reality, get out of the kitchen!
The Arab world dismayed at 'new colonialism' The West may have watched the pictures of jubilant crowds in Baghdad with joy, but in the Arab world most people watched with dismay. Many turned their televisions off, unable to watch any more. Many Arabs who opposed Saddam Hussein's regime saw in the television pictures not the toppling of a ruthless tyrant, but the conquest of Iraq by a foreign occupying army. The most telling moment came when American soldiers briefly draped a statue of President Saddam with a US flag. "This is a new colonialism," was one Palestinian's reaction.
It was a dichotomy that troubled Arabs across the Middle East. "The lesson should be clear for Arab regimes in other countries," one Palestinian journalist said. "There is a big distinction between the people and the regimes who control them with tyranny. The Iraqis understand that the Americans did not come as liberators but to take control of their oil."
The US is also mistrusted because it is seen as pro-Israeli in its attempts to mediate in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Few have any faith in George Bush's promise to pursue the "road-map" peace plan that calls for a Palestinian state. Just about the only people celebrating in the Arab world outside Iraq were Iraqi exiles. Some were sitting watching the scenes from Baghdad in coffee houses in Amman, Jordan, with tears in their eyes.
But among other Arabs there was little joy. In Cairo, where people crowded round windows of electrical stores to watch scenes from Baghdad on televisions, some dismissed the Iraqis celebrating in the streets as "illiterates". "It is only the thieves and the looters who are celebrating," an Egyptian lawyer told the BBC.
Republicans Want Terror Law Made Permanent Working with the Bush administration, Congressional Republicans are maneuvering to make permanent the sweeping antiterrorism powers granted to federal law enforcement agents after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, officials said today. The move is likely to touch off strong objections from many Democrats and even some Republicans in Congress who believe that the Patriot Act, as the legislation that grew out of the attacks is known, has already given the government too much power to spy on Americans.
The landmark legislation expanded the government's power to use eavesdropping, surveillance, access to financial and computer records and other tools to track terrorist suspects. When it passed in October 2001, moderates and civil libertarians in Congress agreed to support it only by making many critical provisions temporary. Those provisions will expire, or "sunset," at the end of 2005 unless Congress re-authorizes them.
But Republicans in the Senate in recent days have discussed a proposal, written by Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, that would repeal the sunset provisions and make the law's new powers permanent, officials said. Republicans may seek to move on the proposal this week by trying to attaching it to another antiterrorism bill that would make it easier for the government to use secret surveillance warrants against "lone wolf" terrorism suspects. Many Democrats have grown increasingly frustrated by what they see as a lack of information from the Justice Department on how its agents are using their newfound powers, and they say they need more time to determine whether agents are abusing those powers.
The Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, said today that without extensive review, he "would be very strongly opposed to any repeal" of the 2005 time limit. He predicted that Republicans lacked the votes to repeal the limits. Indeed, Congressional officials and political observers said the debate might force lawmakers to take stock of how far they were willing to sacrifice civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism. Beryl Howell, a former Democratic aide in the Senate who worked extensively on the 2001 legislation, said that by forcing the issue, Mr. Hatch "is throwing down the gauntlet to people who think the U.S.A. Patriot Act went too far and who want to cut back its powers." Justice Department officials in interviews today credited the Patriot Act with allowing the F.B.I. to move with greater speed and flexibility to disrupt terrorist operations before they occur, and they say they wanted to see the 2005 time limit on the legislation lifted. "The Patriot Act has been an extremely useful tool, a demonstrated success, and we don't want that to expire on us," a senior department official said on condition of anonymity.
My Oscar "Backlash": "Stupid White Men" Back At #1, "Bowling" Breaks New Records Dear friends, It appears that the Bush administration will have succeeded in colonizing Iraq sometime in the next few days. This is a blunder of such magnitude -- and we will pay for it for years to come. It was not worth the life of one single American kid in uniform, let alone the thousands of Iraqis who have died, and my condolences and prayers go out to all of them. So, where are all those weapons of mass destruction that were the pretense for this war? Ha! There is so much to say about all this, but I will save it for later.
What I am most concerned about right now is that all of you -- the majority of Americans who did not support this war in the first place -- not go silent or be intimidated by what will be touted as some great military victory. Now, more than ever, the voices of peace and truth must be heard. I have received a lot of mail from people who are feeling a profound sense of despair and believe that their voices have been drowned out by the drums and bombs of false patriotism. Some are afraid of retaliation at work or at school or in their neighborhoods because they have been vocal proponents of peace. They have been told over and over that it is not "appropriate" to protest once the country is at war, and that your only duty now is to "support the troops."
Can I share with you what it's been like for me since I used my time on the Oscar stage two weeks ago to speak out against Bush and this war? I hope that, in reading what I'm about to tell you, you'll feel a bit more emboldened to make your voice heard in whatever way or forum that is open to you. When "Bowling for Columbine" was announced as the Oscar winner for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards, the audience rose to its feet. It was a great moment, one that I will always cherish. They were standing and cheering for a film that says we Americans are a uniquely violent people, using our massive stash of guns to kill each other and to use them against many countries around the world. They were applauding a film that shows George W. Bush using fictitious fears to frighten the public into giving him whatever he wants. And they were honoring a film that states the following: The first Gulf War was an attempt to reinstall the dictator of Kuwait; Saddam Hussein was armed with weapons from the United States; and the American government is responsible for the deaths of a half-million children in Iraq over the past decade through its sanctions and bombing. That was the movie they were cheering, that was the movie they voted for, and so I decided that is what I should acknowledge in my speech.
And, thus, I said the following from the Oscar stage: "On behalf of our producers Kathleen Glynn and Michael Donovan (from Canada), I would like to thank the Academy for this award. I have invited the other Documentary nominees on stage with me. They are here in solidarity because we like non-fiction. We like non-fiction because we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where fictitious election results give us a fictitious president. We are now fighting a war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fiction of duct tape or the fictitious 'Orange Alerts,' we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. And, whenever you've got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up."
Halfway through my remarks, some in the audience started to cheer. That immediately set off a group of people in the balcony who started to boo. Then those supporting my remarks started to shout down the booers. The L. A. Times reported that the director of the show started screaming at the orchestra "Music! Music!" in order to cut me off, so the band dutifully struck up a tune and my time was up. (For more on why I said what I said, you can read the op-ed I wrote for the L.A. Times, plus other reaction from around the country at my website) The next day -- and in the two weeks since -- the right-wing pundits and radio shock jocks have been calling for my head. So, has all this ruckus hurt me? Have they succeeded in "silencing" me?
Well, take a look at my Oscar "backlash": -- On the day after I criticized Bush and the war at the Academy Awards, attendance at "Bowling for Columbine" in theaters around the country went up 110% (source: Daily Variety/BoxOfficeMojo.com). The following weekend, the box office gross was up a whopping 73% (Variety). It is now the longest-running consecutive commercial release in America, 26 weeks in a row and still thriving. The number of theaters showing the film since the Oscars has INCREASED, and it has now bested the previous box office record for a documentary by nearly 300%.
-- Yesterday (April 6), "Stupid White Men" shot back to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. This is my book's 50th week on the list, 8 of them at number one, and this marks its fourth return to the top position, something that virtually never happens.
-- In the week after the Oscars, my website was getting 10-20 million hits A DAY (one day we even got more hits than the White House!). The mail has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive (and the hate mail has been hilarious!).
-- In the two days following the Oscars, more people pre-ordered the video for "Bowling for Columbine" on Amazon.com than the video for the Oscar winner for Best Picture, "Chicago."
-- In the past week, I have obtained funding for my next documentary, and I have been offered a slot back on television to do an updated version of "TV Nation"/ "The Awful Truth."
I tell you all of this because I want to counteract a message that is told to us all the time -- that, if you take a chance to speak out politically, you will live to regret it. It will hurt you in some way, usually financially. You could lose your job. Others may not hire you. You will lose friends. And on and on and on.
Take the Dixie Chicks. I'm sure you've all heard by now that, because their lead singer mentioned how she was ashamed that Bush was from her home state of Texas, their record sales have "plummeted" and country stations are boycotting their music. The truth is that their sales are NOT down. This week, after all the attacks, their album is still at #1 on the Billboard country charts and, according to Entertainment Weekly, on the pop charts during all the brouhaha, they ROSE from #6 to #4. In the New York Times, Frank Rich reports that he tried to find a ticket to ANY of the Dixie Chicks' upcoming concerts but he couldn't because they were all sold out. (To read Rich's column from yesterday's Times, "Bowling for Kennebunkport," go here. He does a pretty good job of laying it all out and talks about my next film and the impact it could potentially have.) Their song, "Travelin' Soldier" (a beautiful anti-war ballad) was the most requested song on the internet last week. They have not been hurt at all -- but that is not what the media would have you believe. Why is that? Because there is nothing more important now than to keep the voices of dissent -- and those who would dare to ask a question -- SILENT. And what better way than to try and take a few well-known entertainers down with a pack of lies so that the average Joe or Jane gets the message loud and clear: "Wow, if they would do that to the Dixie Chicks or Michael Moore, what would they do to little ol' me?" In other words, shut the f--- up.
And that, my friends, is the real point of this film that I just got an Oscar for -- how those in charge use FEAR to manipulate the public into doing whatever they are told. Well, the good news -- if there can be any good news this week -- is that not only have neither I nor others been silenced, we have been joined by millions of Americans who think the same way we do. Don't let the false patriots intimidate you by setting the agenda or the terms of the debate. Don't be defeated by polls that show 70% of the public in favor of the war. Remember that these Americans being polled are the same Americans whose kids (or neighbor's kids) have been sent over to Iraq. They are scared for the troops and they are being cowed into supporting a war they did not want -- and they want even less to see their friends, family, and neighbors come home dead. Everyone supports the troops returning home alive and all of us need to reach out and let their families know that.
Unfortunately, Bush and Co. are not through yet. This invasion and conquest will encourage them to do it again elsewhere. The real purpose of this war was to say to the rest of the world, "Don't Mess with Texas - If You Got What We Want, We're Coming to Get It!" This is not the time for the majority of us who believe in a peaceful America to be quiet. Make your voices heard. Despite what they have pulled off, it is still our country. Yours, Michael Moore
History of Human Experimentation Timeline The shocking truth of the matrix control system and how humans are manipulated.
Secret Bechtel Documents Reveal: Yes, It Is About Oil Is the war against Iraq all about oil? Not to hear Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tell it. Back on Nov. 15, he called the notion that oil was the real reason behind the Bush administration's drive against Saddam Hussein "nonsense," saying, "It has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil." But a new study released by the Institute for Policy Studies, based upon secret diplomatic cables just declassified by the National Archives, and internal communications of the Bechtel Corporation, suggests just the opposite?that oil is the underlying cause of this war.
The study, which discloses the intimate links between the Bechtel Corporation and Bechtel executives and U.S. policy towards Iraq, also shows that some key players in the push for America's war against Iraq, including Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other former Reagan administration officials Roger Robinson, Judge William B. Clark and Robert McFarlane, have been intimately involved in issues relating to Iraqi oil as far back as the1980s. Titled "Crude Vision: How Oil Interests Obscured US Government Focus on Chemical Weapons Use by Saddam Hussein," this report traces an intense effort by Reagan officials in the mid-OE80s to win Hussein's approval for a $2-billion oil pipeline to be built by Bechtel, running from the Euphrates oilfields in southern Iraq westward to Jordan and the Gulf of Aqaba.
A key player in that effort was Rumsfeld, then the CEO of Searle drugs, the giant phramaceutical company. One particularly revealing 1983 memo, declassified for the first time in February by the National Archives, concerns a trip by Rumsfeld to Iraq. Acting as a special White House "peace envoy" allegedly to discuss with Hussein and then foreign minister Tarik Aziz the bloody war between Iran and Iraq, Rumsfeld turns out according to this memo to have been talking not about that war, but about Bechtel's proposed Aqaba pipeline.
In his memo to Secretary of State George Schultz reporting on the meeting with Hussein, Rumsfeld talks at length about the pipeline discussion, but makes no mention of having discussed either the war or charges that Hussein's army was using chemical weapons against the Iranians. The intense focus of Rumsfeld, Schultz (a former president of Bechtel), Cheney and other Reagan officials, in concert with Bechtel, on the pipeline, reads like an abbreviated, or mini "Pentagon Papers," laying the groundwork for a collapse in relations between the U.S. and Iraq, and eventually to war. The documents also cast Bechtel's current position as one of two top candidates for the lucrative contract to "rebuild Iraq" in a troubling light.
As American troops press into Baghdad, and Iraqi casualties run into the thousands, Counterpunch speaks with Jim Valette, director of research at the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, and one of the three authors of "Crude Vision."
Q: What prompted this study?
A: We were examing the interconnections between private corporations and the U.S. government in the pursuit of oil worldwide since 1995--principally the U.S. financing --through the World Bank and US agencies like the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), etc.?of that pursuit. But what has clearly occurred in recent months has been clearly an even more serious expression of this pursuit of fossil fuels for the benefit of Big Oil, which is an extention of this relation into the military role. And so we're looking at the deployment of troops and paramilitaries financed by the U.S. government worldwide, and of course the most serious conflict of interest is in Iraq. In the course of that research we saw the beginning and end of the story of American efforts to gain control of Iraq's oilfields, the beginning being Rumsfeld's meeting with Saddam Hussein in Deecemer 1983 to the end, which was the Independent Counsel's investigation of the Attorney General, at the time, Edwin Meese, and his relationship with one of the brokers of the pipeline, E Robert Wallachs. Before this nobody had connected the dots between Rumsfeld and the Meese investigation and nobody had examined exactly how dominant this pipeline project was in the diplomacy and the burgeoning relationship between the Reagan administration and Saddam Hussein. It was in that context that we came across corporate records and government memoranda related to the Aqaba pipeline project. It was a real eye-opener to us to see how interwomen Bechtel's interests were with the Reagan Administration.
Q. We're talking about stuff that happened almost 20 years ago. How is this relevant to what's happening in Iraq now?
A: This story, I think, is timely even though it's 20 years old because Bechtel is back now, as the likely winner of the contract to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, and many of those Reagan administration officials are back, and they are poised to get their hands on Iraq's oil again.
Q: So what is new here?
A: The release in February by the National Archives of cables back and forth between Washington and U.S. diplomats in the Middle East around the time of 1983 and 1984 disclose for the first time what really transpired in Rumsfeld's meetings with Saddam and other Iraqi officials. What had previously been reported was that Rumsfeld had a cozy meeting with Saddam in Baghdad in December 1983. In the past, the focus was on whether or not he had raised the issue of Saddam's use of chemical arms against Iran. But what the actual memoranda show is that a big part of Rumsfeld's discussion with Saddam Hussein was this new proposal from Bechtel to build a pipeline form Iraq to Jordan. I mean Rumsfeld was executing the marching orders of George Schultz, who was the Secretary of State, but who came directly from the presidency of Bechtel to the Reagan administration. The documents released by the National Security Archive suggest that what was going on then had quite a bit to do with oil--certainly more than had been known before.
Q: Before the release of those documents we didn't know that Rumsfeld was talking about a pipeline?
A: Right. Right. I mean it was reported that when he was there he didn't raise an issue with Saddam about the use of chemical weapons, even though there were reports coming out of Iran that Saddam was dropping chemical bombs on Iranian troops.
Q: So we knew before what he didn't talk about, but not what he was talking about?and that was the pipeline?
A: .Right, he was there sort of as a bagman for Bechtel. And then there were documents I found in the government's National Archives that showed the extensive involvement of Reagan officials and the very close relationship they had with Bechtel officials, in pursuing this pipeline over the next two years. We sort of connected the dots between what was in these National Security Archives and what was known in the general coverage over the last 15 years.
Q: How important was this pipeline in terms of u.s.-iraqi relations?
A: A: It was the focus of U.S. relations with Iraq for several years, right through the period that Iraq was locked in a bitter war with Iran. In one 1984 internal company memo, Bechtel executive H. B. Scott exhorts his colleagues at Bechtel, after it appeared that all this diplomacy by Rumsfeld seemed to be paying off, "I cannot emphasise enough the need for maximum Bechtel management effort at all levels of the U.S. government and industry to support this project. It has significant political overtones. The time may be ripe for this project to move promptly with very significant rewards to Bechtel for having made it possible." And in these documents we see how tightly interwoven this management effort is with their former colleagues such as George Schultz in the State Department in implementing this initiative. It shows how corporations take advantage of U.S. geopolitics in the region and how they try to profit from those geopolitical developments. Another important memo was in July of 1985, after Bechtel had run into some difficulties in assuaging Saddam's fears about potential Israeli threats to the pipeline. Bechtel and the State Department were having trouble getting the right degree of assurance from the Isreaeli Labor Party [then the ruling party in Israwl] that the pipeline would be off limits to attack. Bechtel and the Reagan administration officials were trying to get absolute assurance from the Labor Party that the pipeline would absolutely not be attacked. There were some frustrations to that approach in 1985, and so Bechtel hired a couple of very close friends of the Reagan administration to sort out the deal. In July of 1985, pipeline promoters hired Judge Jim Clark, who was considered Reagan's right hand man. He had just left government to go into private business. There's a memo from Judge Clark saying that he's "on board" (www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82) and laying out the terms of his involvement, which were $500 an hour, and saying he'd be flying to Baghdad, not as a private consultant, but representing himself as a White House representative. That memorandum, which is avialable on our website (), shows how blurry that revolving door had become. He's working for the government while he's simultaneously getting paid as an agent for Bechtel.
Q: Okay, so we have the evidence that there was this big concern about getting this big pipeline for Bechtel, and the interest in getting oil out without it having to go through the Persian Gulf. But wasn't that a legitimate national security concern for the U.S., given Iran's political situation and its hostility towards America?
A: Well, it has been long-standing US national security policy on paper that threats to the free flow of oil are threats to national security, and this is what we're getting at here. Is this pursuit of oil or the pursuit of empire? Some folks define what's going on in Iraq as U.S. pursuit of empire, but right now it's really two sides of the same coin. And this policy of pursuing oil and empire is coming up against all sorts of realities now that weren't well understood back in the 1980s. On the National security side, this pursuit of oil wealth at all costs has huge costs to democracy and human rights. It's creating a backlash in the Middle East and elsewhere that has had some horrible expressions recently.
Q: The pipeline never got built though. What happened?
A: In the end, Saddam decided that Bechtel was trying to charge too much for the project, and so he killed the project and instead went with a pipeline connecting into pipelines in Turkey and into Saudi Arabia, but avoiding the Straits of Hormuz.
Q: Do you expect to see the Aqaba pipeline revived?
A: Maybe, maybe not. I've seen reports now of Israel looking to build a pipeline from Iraq to the Golan Heights. It's not the same project as Bechtel's Aqaba pipeline idea. Bechtel asked the Commerce Department to keep the Aqaba pipeline registered as an active project for years, but it's probably less necessary now for the U.S. and Bechtel. The pipelines to Saudi Arabia and Turkey give an alternative route for oil to the Persian Gulf, and Bechtel gets into Iraq as a contractor to rebuild Iraq after the war. Right now, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Bechtel is one of the two finalists for the Iraq reconstruction job, along with Parson's group, which has Halliburton as a secondary contractor. Halliburton is Vice President Cheney's former company [Note: Cheney is still receiving payments from Halliburton]. That was reported in the Wall Street Journal today (April 2). They're both on the short list. Halliburton sort of stepped back for obvious reasons but they1re still in there with Parsons.
A: Aside from the unseemly picture of two well connected companies getting an inside track for all that post-war business in Iraq, why do you find the Bechtel involvement in this situation so troubling?
Q: Schultz worked at Bechtel. So did (Reagan Defense Secretary) Caspar Weinberger. There were a lot of Bechtel people in the government in the '80s at the same time that the Iraqi's were gassing the Iranis. The same people are now formulating the plans for a coming U.S. occupation of Iraq, and in turn, the same people will be given the spoils of war--whether it's Parsons and Halliburton or Bechtel. It's all kind of circular back to the 1980s, you know -- completing unfinished business--getting American companies back in there after their being shut out since 1991 and the first Gulf War. Bechtel was also listed by Iraq in its report to the U.N. weapons inspectors as one of the companies that helped supply Saddam with equipment and knowledge for making chemical weapons. Bechtel in the 1980s was prime contractor on PC 1 and 2, two petrochemical plants constructed in Iraq which had dual-use capacity. So I guess the bottom line is that the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld squad are now holding Saddam Hussein accountable for chemical weapons of mass destruction--the same weapons which these same officials ignored in pursuit of the Aqaba pipeline project. And now we are going to reward the pipeline promoter with massive contracts for reconstruction resulting from this policy. There is just such hypocricy in all this.
Q: This all seems like a kind of mini-Pentagon Papers, laying out the early roots of this war.
A: It's not as much of a blue-print as was the Pentagon Papers, but these memos and documents do show how business gets done in Washington, how it was conducted in the 1980s and how it's probably being conducted now behind closed doors under secret bidding processes. And it shows how the origins of American conflict with Iraq involve control of and access to oil.
Q: Can you see any signs that the current war is linked directly to oil? I mean the administration has given so many reasons for going to war I'm surprised they haven't gotten to oil. I remember in 1991, the first Bush said it was about jobs, which equates pretty quickly to oil. But they didn't say that this time around.
A: Yeah, they've redacted any reference to oil from their language. Maybe that's the best evidence that that's what it's really about, because it's logical. I mean Bush the first in his national security papers defined the free flow of oil as a national security priority, as did President Clinton in his final months in office. He released a national security paper that said that the free flow of oil is a national security priority that must be enforced with military might if necessary. The current Bush came out with the national security strategy that redacted this long-standing text dating back to the Carter administration, but at the same time you had this Cheney energy policy that continues this idea of the necessity of a "diverse and free supply of oil" without the military language. And actually you had Cheney kind of kick off the whole war fever last August in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He cited the specter of Saddam Hussein with his weapons of mass destruction threatening the flow of oil from the region. Then immediately afterwards, any kind of reference like that vanished from the Bush administration's rhetoric, to the point that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld called any kind of association of the current conflict with oil to be an "absurdity." So there is no document or strategy paper now that says "we must invade Iraq because our US oil companies have been shut out of this second largest reservoir of oil for the last 20 years," but who knows what we'll find in the National Archives 20 years from now? It's a circumstantial case, but that's as good as we can do now. And logic certainly has its place as well. I mean, the question is why are the weapons of mass destruction today a cause for war when these very same weapons were ignored by the same officials 20 years ago when they were being used. What has changed is that other national oil companies--French, Russian and Chinese--have gotten into Iraq, while U.S. companies were being frozen out. I'm sure there are other factors. Certainly the Kuwait invasion didn't help U.S relations with Saddam, and since Kuwait, Saddam signed very lucrative oil contracts with the French, Russians, Chinese and others.
Q: You made the point in your paper that US relations started to tank with Iraq after the rejection of the oil pipeline.
A: That's true. There was a shift away from Iraq to Iran right at that time, but I should say that Reagan and Bush the First both played both sides of the fence for a while, even after the pipeline project collapsed. You had the Iran Contra deal, but at the same time the U.S. was providing Iraq with intelligence about Iranian troop movements. And the U.S. did extend commodity credits through the Agriculture Department that Saddam then parlayed into arms. And there were the chemical plants that Bechtel helped build. So it's been quirkier than that. But certainly the end of the pipeline destroyed oil relations.
Q: What do you think led to the current war. What's the oil link?
A: Look at what's in Iraq and what's undeveloped. Iraq represents a major insurance package against any kind of political overhaul in Saudi Arabia or problems elsewhere in the Middle East. Look at the policy that people like Rumsfeld and others were recommending in the 1990s leading up to this war and they certainly cited the threat of Saddam Hussein to regional oil supplies as a cause for war. Certainly if the Bechtel pipeline had been built, the course of Iraqi-U.S. relations would have been much different. The failure of that pipeline set into motion a much different course for those relations.
A: So having control of Iraqi oil is still a key issue?
Q: It's the sole reason why the Persian Gulf region and Iraq have been a United States national security concern for so long. It's not geography.
Q: So what would you say is the lesson of all this?
A: The lesson is that when it comes to oil, a dictator is friendly to the U.S. when he's willing to do business and he's a mortal enemy when he's not. That has been the driving force behind national security policy, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union. Oil and national security policy were all submerged in the context of the Cold War. But once that Cold War collapsed, now it's a no-holds-barred battle for oil globally, and the U.S. has seen itself cut out of the world's second largest reserve of oil--and oil that is very inexpensive to extract. So with the U.S. shut out of Iraq, certainly it makes the trigger fingers of U.S. policy-makers itchy. And whether it's a blood feud or a war for oil, it's just a tragedy that the people of Iraq and our own sons and daughters and brothers and sisters are paying the price.
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