Monday, June 30, 2008
Why Are They Dead?
The Smoking Club
Tue, 17 Jun 2008 21:33 EDT
During a recent visit to Montreal, I was struck by the many changes. I spent the greater part of my life in Montreal, but had not visited in several years. It is normal to find that a place you once lived has changed. Nothing stands still, however, the changes I am referring to go much deeper than the usual new buildings or housing developments.
The social fabric of a community is made up of many elements: knowing your neighbours, or at least recognizing faces on the street; communication with local merchants; places where people get together to meet and talk over a coffee or a drink; population density and the ease of circulating on foot or by bike, via public transportation, or by car. Neighbourhoods with small businesses run by people who live in the area have a different feel from ones that are rife with franchises.
Roaming through my old neighbourhood, the old haunts had disappeared. The local cafe, run by people from the neighbourhood and offering a spot to go and spend an afternoon or evening reading or talking over a coffee and a cigarette, populated with students, professors, artists, writers, and musicians, had gone, replaced by yet another chain offering a prepackaged and franchised atmosphere that could be found anywhere on the planet. The former rows of books, everything from novels, poetry, and drama to philosophy and social science, sitting on battered shelves for people to pick up and browse over a coffee had been replaced by, well, nothing. Emptiness. Mirrors reflecting back the image of the consumer to himself.
In the place of books, there was now wireless Internet access, and not only there, but in pretty much every other cafe along the same street. Rather than coming in for a discussion with other flesh and blood people facing you across the table, the tables were full of laptops as the customers carried on their virtual life oblivious to those around them.
And, of course, smoking has now been banned - another disruption in the social fabric. Where ten years ago there were a mixture of smoking and non-smoking cafes offering a choice, now there is nowhere that smokers can go and congregate together. Needless to say, the most popular cafes were always the ones where one could smoke.
The growing wave of anti-smoking intolerance in Montreal, as elsewhere, was encouraged with appeals to health, reminiscent of propaganda seen in Germany in the thirties. Just look at the fascination and preoccupation with the body that has developed as the war on tobacco has intensified. The bodies in Nautilus ads, fit and bursting with health, would not be out of place in posters declaiming the purity of the Aryan race, even if the old notion of serving the fatherland is no longer necessary and a fixation on individual needs and desires suffices. In our narcissistic society, there is nothing so noble as one's own needs and desires, and those of the body predominate.
It strikes me that the pattern that we see in the shift from real cafes to cybercafes is the same we have seen in the shift from cities and towns offering public spaces where people can gather together and exchange to the move to malls, shopping centres, and the box stores that dot the suburbs.
Go to any small town or village in Europe and you find a park or town square at its heart, surrounded with cafes, a place where one can meet the neighbours or stroll through the weekly local market. The auto is an afterthought in these towns. You are meant to get around on foot.
In towns in North America, the car is king. Urban planning is based upon distances that can be covered in an auto, not on foot.
Malls are populated with businesses that are for the most part chains, owned by corporations with no real connection to the community. Then there are the box stores, the Walmarts, Costcos, Staples, and the like that sit isolated in the middle of large parking lots offering no connection to each other. There is no cohesion or integration that encourages social interaction. We arrive isolated in cars, do our shopping, and leave. Even in the malls, which offer the modern version of a public space, the atmosphere of electric lighting and canned music, consumerism and consumption, is oppressive, hardly encouraging to conviviality, much less critical thinking and exchange. It is a "commons" that does not open up and reach out into the world, as did the squares and public parks of yore, but one that is closed in upon itself, yet another narcissistic mirror. Should you wear a t-shirt that the owners find offensive, you'll very quickly be reminded that the space is not public at all. It is owned and private.
Curiously, smoking is one of the elements that weaves together people in the social fabric. As places to smoke are more and more restricted, smokers are forced to seek them out, and in seeking them out, they come upon other smokers. One of the side effects of the ban on smoking in workplaces is that employees from every department in a large company have the opportunity to congregate together in the same places to indulge their little pleasure.
Smoking brings together secretaries, shipping workers from the loading dock, engineers, marketing gurus, and executives. Over a cigarette, ideas are discussed and problems are solved. Workers who are part of a common project, but from two departments that never meet, can discuss and resolve problems that would never be brought up otherwise. Don Oakley quotes some anecdotal evidence in his book Slow Burn:
To digress a moment already (as readers who have stuck with me this far are aware that I am prone to do), the segregation of smokers from decent society may have benefits that go beyond the protection of innocent nonsmokers from disease, disability and premature death. For example, in a posting to the alt.smokers "user group," "SipePL@po5.pl. unisys.com (Particle Man)" wrote:
An observation: the more nonsmokers push for smoke free environments, the more smokers end up together. Smoking, talking, trading notes.
When I started smoking there was very little, if any, community spirit among smokers. You smoked at your desk, or wherever, and never really felt any association with other smokers . . . But now, we have our own sections. Our own lounges. And our own user group. . .
The really interesting thing about the outdoor smoking area where I work is how many problems get solved there. I work in an engineering organization. The smoking "lounge" attracts people from every discipline for one simple reason: they are addicted to nicotine. But hey, here are mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, device driver types, application types, Unix, MS Windows, OS/2, managers, janitors, net-hackers, physicists - and they are all there having a cigarette or cigar or pipe, and looking at each other.
Guess what? A LOT of tough problems get solved there, more than I've ever seen in multi-functional meetings called by management.
From NSA Voice, the National Smokers Alliance newsletter:
Workplace smoking prohibitions have created "unlikely friendships with co-workers whose paths they might never cross," reports the Newark Star Ledger. As a result, new lines of communication are being formed as these "smoke-break buddies" from various levels and different departments gather in the doorways and on loading docks of their companies to smoke.
"Go out and smoke, and you'll learn lots of things," said Janet Saporito, a South Orange, N.J., smoker interviewed by the newspaper. "You do meet people you'd never know otherwise."
Stanley Deetz, professor of communication at Rutgers University, commented on this social phenomenon. "A lot of companies have tried to invent these types of connections, yet here's one that has emerged spontaneously," said Deetz. "It has this uncontrolled, spontaneous quality which makes it creative and useful."
Julie Wiegel of West Orange, N.J., for example, found her new buddies useful in her search for a new job. "You find out different jobs that are open," said Wiegel, whose position at her company was being eliminated. "You'll hear, 'My friend works here, and they're hiring.'"
Others have benefited by meeting company executives. "I've had some great conversations," said Frank Petrock of Belleville, N.J. "There are people who come out here at a higher level."
So while the clear push in society is towards fragmentation and isolation, the ban on smoking is offering an opportunity for smokers to move in the other direction.
I was discussing the issue of social disintegration recently with a friend who runs a bookstore. He has been aware of the problem for a long time and is trying to do something about it. His bookstore serves as a place where people can drop in at any time of day to browse or to sit and chat. It is not unusual to find discussions happening over the counter or in the back on sofas where people can come and sit and read or talk.
He also was telling me about a book club the store has started. He says the discussions are passionate, and he feels the participants, for the most part married women who rarely get out for "adult conversation", are starved for this type of dialogue. The books serve as a springboard for an exchange of ideas that often leaves the book behind and ends up focusing on the state of the world and what can be done about it. The members sense that things aren't quite right, and they are relieved and encouraged to find that others feel the same way. The discussions break down the feelings of solitude and self-doubt each of them suffers from, allowing each individual to verify that he or she is not crazy, that things have in fact gone horribly wrong, and that they are not alone in having these thoughts and worries.
Virtual communities of like-minded people such as SOTT are important in building a network that spans the globe, however, we must not forget that each of us lives in the real world at a local scale. As the old saying goes, think globally, act locally. We shouldn't forget that second admonition.
So if you are looking for something constructive to do to combat the race towards social fragmentation and annihilation, why not take a small step in re-establishing the social fabric in your town: find a sympathetic bookstore in your neighbourhood and offer to organize a book club. Or go to a local cafe and suggest they have discussion evenings once a month where people can get together and thrash out the problems we see and are afraid of speaking out about at home or work.
The point is not to proselytize your own ideas. The point is to encourage exchange and discussion, to create a space where people are allowed and even encouraged to think for themselves. There is a potential of unlimited creative energy out there that is not being used. It is being wasted. We must be creative in finding ways to tap into that energy so that it can find ways of being expressed. Who knows what can happen, then.
If you start up a book club, you might even suggest Don Oakley's book Slow Burn on the nonsense spouted in the name of public health and tobacco and explore one of the key battles against social cohesion.
Coffee and Cigarettes 2
End of Dollar
Dow Stock Market Crash and Iran War Herald End of US Dollar Hegemony
Stock-Markets / Financial Crash Jun 28, 2008 - 02:55 PM
Unsurprisingly, the US war machinery is in full swing at this time. Troop and military asset movements into the Iranian theater are nearly complete, the Israelis have flown their practice-attack of 100-plus fighter jets over the Mediterranean, and Congress has again prostrated itself before its banking-guild rulers who want total government (and therefore banking) of all economic activity.
Congress did this by passing the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 to give retroactive immunity to telcoms spying for the government, and by proposing a resolution (the already infamous H. Con. Res. 362) by which Congress demands that Bush completely blockade Iran in order to force it to stop enriching uranium. This, naturally, is a perfect setup for unleashing the long-planned bombing campaign on Iran. Congressmen know that Iran will not accede to these international demands.
End result: We will probably get another war because of all this, just like we got one back in 2002-03 when the Dow plunged into the chasm this recently broken support level has bridged for these past eight years (see chart above).
The problem is that this time, it is a bipartisan gang of US war mongers in our Congress who all appear hell-bent on forcing Bush to attack Iran with a preemptive strike, possibly even an unprovoked nuclear first strike – something that human history so far has not had to deal with.
It is also something that will cause the US to forfeit any legitimate claims of world leadership for the remainder of that history.
The War Currency
Wars are rarely fought over national security issues, as political leaders often claim. At rock bottom, they are mostly fought over economic issues.
Iraq and Iran (if Congress and the administration get their way) are the only two countries the US has ever attacked preemptively. They are also the only two oil-producing countries that ever went off the petrodollar. The alleged nuclear ambitions of a terrorist-sponsoring country cannot be the real reason for the planned attack – because terrorist-sponsor North Korea was not only allowed to develop nuclear weapons unmolested, it was even allowed to test-launch a potentially nuclear-tipped ICBM at the US without any military repercussions whatsoever.
There goes the "national security" rationalization for this planned attack.
This fact exposes the attacks for what they really are. tools of US monetary policy. The dollar has no real value internationally, save for the fact that the now militarily enforced necessity for countries to buy dollars in order to buy oil creates artificial demand.
The euro's existence threatens all of this, now. Oil countries have a dollar-alternative in the euro, and so does the rest of the world. The euro is designed to not be quite as inflationary as the dollar is and has been. This is done by virtue of the ECB's exclusive mandate of "price stability", another word for inflation fighting.
Yet Another War Currency
Yet, even the euro carries the fiat-disease within it. Even the euro is structurally inflationary – just at a slower pace than th edollar. Ultimately, even the euro will fail, but it has served its intended purpose well: to sideline the US dollar and thereby the dollar-based US empire.
The old US dollar empire has now served its own purpose as the engine for global growth and for achieving general globalization. Like the Jumbo Jets of yore that piggy-backed the early space shuttles perform their test flights before they could finally launch into space on their own power, the US economic mother ship has now fulfilled its purpose and is no longer needed.
In the globalists' view, the US can now safely be discarded because it has inherent "flaws."
America has a constitutional system that, even though it has been successfully neutralized to a large extent, was designed to protect individual freedom, and that makes some of her people insist on them. Such cannot be tolerated in a truly globalized world. It tends to make people of other countries want to simulate the US and to insist on keeping their countries' sovereignty intact to protect their own tenuous freedoms.
In the final analysis, therefore, the euro is a war currency as well. It is a model currency, designed to centralize economic power in artificial, regional political bodies and away from sovereign national governments. It is a currency designed to abolish the nation state. It serves as the model to be implemented by other regions: North America next, then Asia and Africa, later North and South America combined, and eventually all of these regions will be forced to bow to a supra-regional, global control mechanism.
This will only achieved by more warfare – except it won't be called "war" anymore. Future military campaigns will be called "peace actions", for they will ostensibly be waged to "enforce peace" – a linguistic and conceptual contortion that rivals anything George Orwell could have dreamed up.
The Peace Currency
Gold is truly the peace currency. It needs no military to prop it up. It needs no centralized control system to regulate its supply, only the natural, ultimately decentralized controls of supply and demand. Wars may be fought over access to gold mines some day, but correct me if I'm wrong, so far this has not happened in history. Gold can easily be acquired in trade. Fighting a war over access would be self-defeating because it costs more than the potential benefit could yield.
So, the world is now faced by an America that claims it wants to "spread democracy" while using its military to tyrannize countries that simply want to sell their oil for another currency. America has become what she always claims to be opposed to: an absolute tyranny that no longer even cloaks itself. Not surprising, given the role assigned to her by her globalist masters in ushering in the preconditions for eventual total centralization.
Gold is allowed to play its limited role in all of this because increased use of gold for investment purposes, and as currency, tends to weaken the dollar-empire and strengthen other regions (Europe), and nations (China).
Americans, however, have it within their power to mess up the globalist's game plan for good. They have a chance to completely neutralize the eventual "winner" of the globalists' remaining, hand-picked presidential candidates. They have a chance to boot out every Congressman and Senator up for reelection this fall who ever voted to pass measures such as the "Patriot" Act, the Military Commissions Act, or the upcoming vote on House Concurrent Resolution 362 discussed above.
They can also fire all who refuse to vote for Ron Paul's Honest Money Act designed to reintroduce gold and silver as the peace currency.
If they achieve this victory, Congress will, for once, pay attention to their political will. Congress will then, for once, be a true check on presidential executive power. Such a Congress can then even be moved to abolish the Federal Reserve – but only if Americans start to pay attention to what power their choice of currency can convey to – or withhold from – their government.
It's all up to them.
In the meantime, gold will have unbelievable bull runs as the US Fed carries out Vladimir Lenin's instructions on how to "best" destroy the capitalist system – by debauching the currency.
The EURO VS DOLLAR MONITOR
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Naming Sewer After George Bush
Source The Independent
Some presidents get carved into Mt Rushmore; others have airports, motorways, and even entire cities named in their honour. But when George Bush leaves office, his most visible memorial may be a mouldering patch of human effluent.
In November, alongside casting their ballot for the next president, the people of San Francisco will also vote on a measure to rename one of the city's largest sewage works the George W Bush Sewage Plant, to provide a "fitting monument" to the outgoing commander-in-chief's achievements.
Activists from the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco, a mischievously-named group behind the move, will ask supporters to participate in a "synchronised flush".
It may sound like a student prank, but the proposal is almost certain to be passed. Democrats usually secure between 70 and 80 per cent of the vote in San Francisco – and in 2006 passed a proposition to impeach Mr Bush and his Vice-President Dick Cheney by a majority of almost two to one.
"In 50 years from now, we want people to see George Bush's name on that plant, and ask each other what went wrong," said Brian McConnell, the Memorial Commission's organiser. "We want them to be reminded of the Iraq war, and his other dramatic mistakes, and this is the perfect way to do it."
The ballot takes advantage of local government rules, which state that any proposal supported by a petition carrying the signatures of more than 7,168 voters must go to the polls. At present, the supporters of the sewage plant proposal claim to have 8,500 signatures, and counting. If the measure passes, city authorities will be forced to erect a prominent sign bearing the legend "George W Bush Sewage Plant" at the site of the bayside facility.
Local Republicans call it an "abuse of process" and promised to "use all means" to defeat it, Howard Epstein, the party's spokesman, told the San Francisco Chronicle: "There's no use to this other than to make these nutcases feel good." The proposal even jollified yesterday's White House press briefing, where a spokesman three times refused to comment.
However, Mr McConnell claimed to have only noticed two forms of opposition during his campaign so far. "First, we get people who say they just want to forget George Bush's presidency," he said. "Second, we hear from those who say that sewage plants perform a valuable public service and, as such, it does not make sense to name one after George Bush."
Unnatural DisasterBy Sameer Dossani
While the mainstream media doesn't always ignore the pressing issue of hunger in Africa, it rarely explores the root causes of this problem. Behind most news on the issue, there's an assumption that casts hunger as a natural result of unfortunate weather conditions, coupled with bureaucratic inefficiency and bad economic planning.
With this in mind, in 2005 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a plan to 'help millions of small-scale farmers lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.' In the years since, the foundation has been joined in its efforts by a number of other organizations that have founded the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
According to AGRA's website:
AGRA programs develop practical solutions to significantly boost farm productivity and incomes for the poor while safeguarding the environment. AGRA advocates for policies that support its work across all key aspects of the African agricultural 'value chain'-from seeds, soil health, and water to markets and agricultural education. A root cause of entrenched and deepening poverty is the fact that millions of small-scale farmers-the majority of them women working farms smaller than one hectare-cannot grow enough food to sustain their families, their communities, or their countries.
AGRA's assumptions - and those of the mainstream media - rest on the premise that the Africa's hunger problem is one of production. While production may be part of the story, it's far from the complete picture. The heart of the agriculture crisis that Africa and the world are currently experiencing lies in the failed policy paradigm promoted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, institutions that still have enormous control over economic policy in many African countries.
World Bank Role
The World Bank's intervention in African agriculture began in 1981 with the study Accelerated Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: An Agenda for Action. Also known as the Berg Report, the study paved the way for World Bank involvement in the African agriculture sectors. The Berg Report prescriptions represent the first incarnation of the market fundamentalist policies that have been dominant in the African agricultural sector thereafter.
Since the Berg report, the World Bank has insisted on market liberalization and privatization of Africa's agricultural markets. Subsidies of all kinds have decreased since 1981 and most state marketing boards and crop authorities have been greatly weakened or eliminated. No one - including the World Bank - denies that the net result of this policy is to expose small farmers to increased shocks. But the World Bank argues that shocks may be beneficial, in that exposure to actual market fluctuations will lead small farmers to grow high- value export crops instead of low value crops for local consumption. This 'rational peasant' theory, as it was known in the 1980s, argued that small farmers shifting to high value exports such as coffee, sugar, cut flowers, etc. would ultimately bring in more money to the domestic economy, enabling rapid growth and development.
This theory - that government regulation should get be eliminated so that the market can do its job of 'getting the prices right' - underlines World Bank thinking not only in the 1981 Berg report but also in their 2008 World Development Report, titled Agriculture for Development. Twenty years of the same failed policies are apparently not enough for the World Bank to change its tune.
The World Bank's continued market fundamentalism is difficult to understand, especially in light of the fact that after more than 25 years of imposing these policies in Africa and Latin America, success stories are few and far between. Those countries that do have productive agricultural sectors (almost none of which are in Africa) either rely on huge landholders to be productive (Brazil, Argentina, Chile) or on massive subsidies (India) or both (U.S., EU). The countries that have eliminated their subsidies and privatized their grain boards, including many in Africa, are those that are doing the poorest.
In fairness, one or two changes can be seen in the World Bank's thinking between 1981 and today. The first can be seen as an admission of failure - migration to more developed countries and the subsequent flow of remittances to families left behind, is mentioned as part of a strategy for reducing rural poverty (p. 73). While this is certainly true in the current global economy, there are few who would argue that forced migration is a path to development. Anecdotal evidence suggests that remittances may have a slightly greater correlation to development than the correlation between aid and development, but this is hardly high praise, considering the failures of the aid programs of the last 30 years.
The second concession that the 2008 WDR makes to reality (as opposed to market fundamentalist ideology) is an allowance for targeted subsidies. While subsidies have historically been a four-letter word for the World Bank, in recent years the Bank has come under fire for insisting on market liberalization in developing countries while acknowledging that developed countries have much higher subsidies than those in African countries. The World Bank's answer to this is to continue to talk about various kinds of subsidies that distort trade and the need to stay away from those policies, while simultaneously allowing for the possibility of targeted subsidies to help the poorest of farmers who may be the most vulnerable to price shocks. This may be a step forward, but it is a small one and does little to relieve the burden of over 20 years of lost African development for which the World Bank bears a large share of responsibility.
The Real World
If one is willing to look at the events of the last 30 years without the quasi-religious belief that free markets lead to development and growth, one would undoubtedly find that the opposite is true. In his groundbreaking work Kicking Away the Ladder (2003), Ha Joon Chang documents the development of every industrialized country, showing that protectionist policies were a fundamental part of development strategy in almost every case. The process of development that emerges from this story is not maximizing comparative advantage (for if so, the U.S. would be a sparsely populated country of fur traders and fisher people) but rather shifting comparative advantage to high value goods through calculated market distortions. In the case of the U.K. and the United States, those market distortions originally came in the form of colonialism and slavery. But market distortions continue in the U.S. today in the form of agriculture and steel subsidies, not to mention the tremendous government spending on biotechnology and defense, which largely serves as a subsidy for those sectors.
In light of these fundamentals of developmental economics, the World Development Report 2008 can be seen as an ideological continuation of the failed agricultural policies of the last 20 years, without an adequate analysis of why that period has been a failure for countries who would rely on agricultural exports as a path to development. The report does point out that a few countries (Brazil and Chile are the examples given) have successfully used agriculture to increase growth, but in Brazil and (to a lesser extent) Chile, small farmers are all but extinct, and agriculture is big business. Given the preoccupation with small farmers and poverty alleviation in other parts of the document, the examples are odd.
In addition to the failures of the free-market paradigm, the ongoing crisis of food prices has exposed global agricultural production as a disaster. Since about 1970, the World Bank, other international financial institutions and the private sector have succeeded in completely transforming agriculture from a primarily local affair to a complex industrialized process. Monocropping, over-reliance on chemical pesticides and fertilizers and trans-genetic manipulation have in some cases increased yields; but these practices have not led to a significant reduction in the number of hungry people in the world. The recommendations of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and the World Bank amount to insanity - recommending more of the same and expecting better results.
Perhaps most shocking is that this new push towards increased globalization and industrialization is occurring at precisely at the moment when many in the United States are moving towards a diet that is both local - produced somewhere in the vicinity of where it is consumed - and organic - produced without the use of synthetic hormones, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and genetic modification.
In the United States, Europe and elsewhere, many are beginning to understand that industrialized agriculture benefits neither those who produce nor those who consume food. In the current food crisis, more than 25 countries and the European Union have imposed tariffs, subsidies, price controls or other measures to protect consumers from the global free market. So why the double standard when it comes to Africa?
For those interested in solutions, the organic and local movements aren't far off the mark. What producers and consumers in many parts of the world are beginning to understand is that the way that farmers have been growing food for millennia is more or less a good system. While there may be room for technology, (drip irrigation systems, for example) that innovation should not alter the food product nor add layers of cost.
Many parts of Africa have an advantage in that they have never really lost their traditional relationships with the land. The problem has been that cheaper food from Europe and the United States is often dumped on African countries, undercutting the possibility for farmers to earn a living from their production. In the case of Africa, all that may be needed is a sensible trade policy to protect those who already grow enough food for all Africans.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Natives get cheated
Court Rewards Exxon for
By Greg Palast
26/06/08 "ICH"- -- Twenty years after Exxon Valdez slimed over one thousand miles of Alaskan beaches, the company has yet to pay the $5 billion in punitive damages awarded by the jury. And now they won't have to. The Supreme Court today cut Exxon's liability by 90% to half a billion. It's so cheap, it's like a permit to spill.
Exxon knew this would happen. Right after the spill, I was brought to
But before we brought charges, the Natives hoped to settle with the oil company, to receive just enough compensation to buy some boats and rebuild their island villages to withstand what would be a decade of trying to survive in a polluted ecological death zone.
His company offered the Natives pennies on the dollar. The oil men added a cruel threat: take it or leave itRead more »
War of Ignorance
Britain's War in the Cause of Fear and Ignorance
By John Pilger
26/06/08 "ICH" -- -- The British lawyer Gareth Pierce, celebrated for her defense of miscarriage of justice victims, wrote recently: "Over the years of the conflict, every lawless action on the part of the British state provoked a similar reaction: internment, ‘shoot to kill’, the use of torture, brutally obtained false confessions and fabricated evidence. This was registered by the community most affected, but the British public, in whose name the actions were taken, remained ignorant." Referring to the conflict in Northern Ireland, she was drawing a comparison with "our new suspect community," people of Muslim faith, against whom a vicious, sectarian and mostly unreported war is well under way.
As Pierce points out, "internment, discredited and abandoned in Northern Ireland" now allows, not 42 days, but "indefinite detention without trial of foreign nationals, the ‘evidence’ to be heard in secret with the detainee’s lawyer not permitted to see the evidence against him." Those snatched from their homes in Britain following 11 September, 2001 have all but vanished into an Anglo-American gulag, which in this country joins Belmarsh prison, where people are consigned to oblivion, with Broadmoor psychiatric prison, where they are sent as they go mad, and with Kafkaesque versions of "home" where others are interred under "control orders." One of these home prisoners, wrote Pierce, "a man without arms, was left alone and terrified, unable to leave the flat or to contact anyone without committing a criminal offense, subject to a curfew and allowed no visits unless approved in advance by the Home Office." Going into the garden, arranging a plumber, speaking to a child’s teacher all require permission. The families go mad, too.
Preferring "a quick death … to a slow death here," one man who took a risk and returned to Algeria has been lost in the subcontracted gulag, where his new torturers have given "assurances" to the British government that they will do him no harm and while they do him harm are themselves reassured by the presence of British Petroleum, the ethical oil company, which has sunk £6 billion into getting oil out of Algeria’s southern Sahara. Another subcontractor, Jordan, is held economically afloat by the US so that George Bush’s "renditions" and torture can proceed there. No British court has found any of these people guilty of any crime. In Britain, as Tony Blair, a genuine prima facie criminal, put it so well, "the rules of the game have changed."
As in the Irish conflict, it is again the ignorance of us, the public, upon which the state relies. All propaganda is directed at honing this ignorance and fabricating a fear. This is primarily the task of journalists. The true fear is in Muslim communities. Visit them and find people terrified by your knock on the door, and women who now never go out and the children wrapped in nightmares. In effect, control orders have been served on thousands of British citizens.
As Pierce reminds us, the Irish had allies in the Catholic Church and the 40 million Americans of Irish descent; Muslims are alone as they watch the British state, with its "obstinate incomprehension" of their faith, do to them as it would never do to those of other faiths. Imagine Jews treated this way. You cannot imagine it; the profanity is too great. The silence of British Jews, who have the history, is also great.
As the suppressed facts of "terrorism" show, Muslims are by far the most numerous victims – up to a million Iraqis dead, including 500,000 infants, during "sanctions" against Iraq in the 1990s; perhaps another million dead when Blair and his mentor ignited the current inferno; countless dead and maimed in Afghanistan by weapons that include the British thermobaric bomb, designed to suck the air out of human beings. And there is Palestine, an entire nation under a permanent control order.
Reviewing this monstrous record, it is no less than amazing that the world’s most violent governments – Britain is now the world’s leading arms merchant – have sustained only two retaliations on their home soil. With every hypocritical act, they beckon another. Moreover, wrote Gareth Pierce, "If our government continues on [this destructive] path, we will ultimately have destroyed much of the moral and legal fabric of the society that we claim to be protecting. The choice and the responsibility are entirely ours."
John Pilger was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been a war correspondent, filmmaker and playwright. Based in London, he has written from many countries and has twice won British journalism's highest award, that of "Journalist of the Year," for his work in Vietnam and Cambodia. His new book, Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and Its Triumphs, is published by Jonathan Cape in June. http://www.johnpilger.com/
Copyright © John Pilger 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
British and American Black Ops in Iraq
Shining Light on the "Black World"
By Andrew G. Marshall
In January of 2002, the Washington Post ran a story detailing a CIA plan put forward to President Bush shortly after 9/11 by CIA Director George Tenet titled, "Worldwide Attack Matrix," which was "outlining a clandestine anti-terror campaign in 80 countries around the world. What he was ready to propose represented a striking and risky departure for U.S. policy and would give the CIA the broadest and most lethal authority in its history." The plan entailed CIA and Special Forces "covert operations across the globe," and at "the heart of the proposal was a recommendation that the president give the CIA what Tenet labeled "exceptional authorities" to attack and destroy al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the rest of the world." Tenet cited the need for such authority "to allow the agency to operate without restraint -- and he wanted encouragement from the president to take risks." Among the many authorities recommended was the use of "deadly force."
Further, "Another proposal was that the CIA increase liaison work with key foreign intelligence services," as "Using such intelligence services as surrogates could triple or quadruple the CIA's effectiveness." The Worldwide Attack Matrix "described covert operations in 80 countries that were either underway or that he was now recommending. The actions ranged from routine propaganda to lethal covert action in preparation for military attacks," as well as "In some countries, CIA teams would break into facilities to obtain information."
P2OG: "Commit terror, to incite terror… in order to react to terror"
In 2002, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board (DSB) conducted a "Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism," portions of which were leaked to the Federation of American Scientists. According to the document, the "War on Terror" constitutes a "committed, resourceful and globally dispersed adversary with strategic reach," which will require the US to engage in a "long, at times violent, and borderless war." As the Asia Times described it, this document lays out a blueprint for the US to "fight fire with fire." Many of the "proposals appear to push the military into territory that traditionally has been the domain of the CIA, raising questions about whether such missions would be subject to the same legal restraints imposed on CIA activities." According to the Chairman of the DSB, "The CIA executes the plans but they use Department of Defense assets."
Specifically, the plan "recommends the creation of a super-Intelligence Support Activity, an organization it dubs the Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG), to bring together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence and cover and deception. For example, the Pentagon and CIA would work together to increase human intelligence (HUMINT) forward/operational presence and to deploy new clandestine technical capabilities." The purpose of P2OG would be in "'stimulating reactions’ among terrorists and states possessing weapons of mass destruction, meaning it would prod terrorist cells into action, thus exposing them to 'quick-response’ attacks by US forces." In other words, commit terror to incite terror, in order to react to terror.
The Los Angeles Times reported in 2002 that, "The Defense Department is building up an elite secret army with resources stretching across the full spectrum of covert capabilities. New organizations are being created. The missions of existing units are being revised," and quoted then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as saying, "Prevention and preemption are ... the only defense against terrorism." Chris Floyd bluntly described P2OG in CounterPunch, saying, "the United States government is planning to use "cover and deception" and secret military operations to provoke murderous terrorist attacks on innocent people. Let's say it again: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and the other members of the unelected regime in Washington plan to deliberately foment the murder of innocent people--your family, your friends, your lovers, you--in order to further their geopolitical ambitions."
"The Troubles" with Iraq
On February 5, 2007, the Telegraph reported that, "Deep inside the heart of the "Green Zone" [in Iraq], the heavily fortified administrative compound in Baghdad, lies one of the most carefully guarded secrets of the war in Iraq. It is a cell from a small and anonymous British Army unit that goes by the deliberately meaningless name of the Joint Support Group (JSG)." The members of the JSG "are trained to turn hardened terrorists into coalition spies using methods developed on the mean streets of Ulster during the Troubles, when the Army managed to infiltrate the IRA at almost every level. Since war broke out in Iraq in 2003, they have been responsible for running dozens of Iraqi double agents." They have been "[w]orking alongside the Special Air Service [SAS] and the American Delta Force as part of the Baghdad-based counter-terrorist unit known as Task Force Black."
It was reported that, "During the Troubles [in Northern Ireland], the JSG operated under the cover name of the Force Research Unit (FRU), which between the early 1980s and the late 1990s managed to penetrate the very heart of the IRA. By targeting and then "turning" members of the paramilitary organisation with a variety of "inducements" ranging from blackmail to bribes, the FRU operators developed agents at virtually every command level within the IRA." Further, "The unit was renamed following the Stevens Inquiry into allegations of collusion between the security forces and protestant paramilitary groups, and, until relatively recently continued to work exclusively in Northern Ireland."
Considering that this group had been renamed after revelations of collusion with terrorists, perhaps it is important to take a look at what exactly this "collusion" consisted of. The Stevens Inquiry’s report "contains devastating confirmation that intelligence officers of the British police and the military actively helped Protestant guerillas to identify and kill Catholic activists in Northern Ireland during the 1980s." It was, "a state policy sanctioned at the highest level." The Inquiry, "highlighted collusion, the willful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence, and the extreme of agents being involved in murder," and acknowledged "that innocent people had died because of the collusion." These particular "charges relate to activities of a British Army intelligence outfit known as the Force Research Unit (FRU) and former Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) police officers."
In 2002, the Sunday Herald reported on the allegations made by a former British intelligence agent, Kevin Fulton, who stated that, "he was told by his military handlers that his collusion with paramilitaries was sanctioned by Margaret Thatcher herself." Fulton worked for the Force Research Unit (FRU), and had infiltrated the IRA, always while on the pay roll of the military. Fulton tells of how in 1992, he told his FRU and MI5 intelligence handlers that his IRA superior was planning to launch a mortar attack on the police, yet his handlers did nothing and the attack went forward, killing a policewoman. Fulton stated, "I broke the law seven days a week and my handlers knew that. They knew that I was making bombs and giving them to other members of the IRA and they did nothing about it. If everything I touched turned to shit then I would have been dead. The idea was that the only way to beat the enemy was to penetrate the enemy and be the enemy."
In 1998, Northern Ireland experienced its "worst single terrorist atrocity," as described by the BBC, in which a car bomb went off, killing 29 people and injuring 300. According to a Sunday Herald piece in 2001, "Security forces didn't intercept the Real IRA's Omagh bombing team because one of the terrorists was a British double-agent whose cover would have been blown as an informer if the operation was uncovered." Kevin Fulton had even "phoned a warning to his RUC handlers 48 hours before the Omagh bombing that the Real IRA was planning an attack and gave details of one of the bombing team and his car registration." Further, "The man thought to be the agent is a senior member of the [IRA] organization."
In 2002, it was revealed that, "one of the most feared men inside the Provisional IRA," John Joe Magee, head of the IRA’s "internal security unit," commonly known as the IRA’s "torturer- in-chief," was actually "one of the UK's most elite soldiers," who "was trained as a member of Britain's special forces." The Sunday Herald stated that, "Magee led the IRA's internal security unit for more than a decade up to the mid-90s - most of those he investigated were usually executed," and that, "Magee's unit was tasked to hunt down, interrogate and execute suspected British agents within the IRA."
In 2006, the Guardian reported that, "two British agents were central to the bombings of three army border installations in 1990." The claims included tactics known as the 'human bomb’, which "involved forcing civilians to drive vehicles laden with explosives into army checkpoints." This tactic "was the brainchild of British intelligence."
In 2006, it was also revealed that, "A former British Army mole in the IRA has claimed that MI5 arranged a weapons-buying trip to America in which he obtained detonators, later used by terrorists to murder soldiers and police officers," and "British intelligence co-operated with the FBI to ensure his trip to New York in the 1990s went ahead without incident so that his cover would not be blown." Further, "the technology he obtained has been used in Northern Ireland and copied by terrorists in Iraq in roadside bombs that have killed British troops."
Considering all these revelations of British collusion with IRA terrorists and complicity in terrorist acts in Northern Ireland through the FRU, what evidence is there that these same tactics are not being deployed in Iraq under the renamed Joint Support Group (JSG)? The recruits to the JSG in Iraq are trained extensively and those "who eventually pass the course can expect to be posted to Baghdad, Basra and Afghanistan."
P2OG in Action
In September of 2003, months after the initial invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Iraq’s most sacred Shiite mosque was blown up, killing between 80 and 120 people, including a popular Shiite cleric, and the event was blamed by Iraqis on the American forces.
On April 20, 2004, American journalist in Iraq, Dahr Jamail, reported in the New Standard that, "The word on the street in Baghdad is that the cessation of suicide car bombings is proof that the CIA was behind them." Jamail interviewed a doctor who stated that, "The U.S. induces aggression. If you don't attack me, I will never attack you. The U.S. is stimulating the aggression of the Iraqi people!" This description goes very much in line with the aims outlined in the Pentagon’s P2OG document about "inciting terror," or "preempting terror attacks."
Weeks after the initial incident involving the British SAS soldiers in Basra, in October of 2005, it was reported that Americans were "captured in the act of setting off a car bomb in Baghdad," as, "A number of Iraqis apprehended two Americans disguised in Arab dress as they tried to blow up a booby-trapped car in the middle of a residential area in western Baghdad on Tuesday. … Residents of western Baghdad's al-Ghazaliyah district [said] the people had apprehended the Americans as they left their Caprice car near a residential neighborhood in al-Ghazaliyah on Tuesday afternoon. Local people found they looked suspicious so they detained the men before they could get away. That was when they discovered that they were Americans and called the … police." However, "the Iraq police arrived at approximately the same time as allied military forces - and the two men were removed from Iraq custody and whisked away before any questioning could take place."
It was reported that in May of 2005, an Iraqi man was arrested after witnessing a car bombing that took place in front of his home, as it was said he shot an Iraqi National Guardsman. However, "People from the area claim that the man was taken away not because he shot anyone, but because he knew too much about the bomb. Rumor has it that he saw an American patrol passing through the area and pausing at the bomb site minutes before the explosion. Soon after they drove away, the bomb went off and chaos ensued. He ran out of his house screaming to the neighbors and bystanders that the Americans had either planted the bomb or seen the bomb and done nothing about it. He was promptly taken away."
Further, another story was reported in the same month that took place in Baghdad when an Iraqi driver had his license and car confiscated at a checkpoint, after which he was instructed "to report to an American military camp near Baghdad airport for interrogation and in order to retrieve his license." After being questioned for a short while, he was told to drive his car to an Iraqi police station, where his license had been forwarded, and that he should go quickly. "The driver did leave in a hurry, but was soon alarmed with a feeling that his car was driving as if carrying a heavy load, and he also became suspicious of a low flying helicopter that kept hovering overhead, as if trailing him. He stopped the car and inspected it carefully. He found nearly 100 kilograms of explosives hidden in the back seat and along the two back doors. The only feasible explanation for this incident is that the car was indeed booby trapped by the Americans and intended for the al-Khadimiya Shiite district of Baghdad. The helicopter was monitoring his movement and witnessing the anticipated 'hideous attack by foreign elements."
On October 4, 2005, it was reported by the Sydney Morning Herald that, "The FBI's counterterrorism unit has launched a broad investigation of US-based theft rings after discovering some vehicles used in deadly car bombings in Iraq, including attacks that killed US troops and Iraqi civilians, were probably stolen in the United States, according to senior US Government officials." Further, "The inquiry began after coalition troops raided a Falluja bomb factory last November and found a Texas-registered four-wheel-drive being prepared for a bombing mission. Investigators said there were several other cases where vehicles evidently stolen in the US wound up in Syria or other Middle Eastern countries and ultimately in the hands of Iraqi insurgent groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq."
In 2006, the Al-Askariya mosque in the city of Samarra was bombed and destroyed. It was built in 944, was over 1,000 years old, and was one of the most important Shi’ite mosques in the world. The great golden dome that covered it, which was built in 1904, was destroyed in the 2006 bombing, which was set off by men dressed as Iraqi Special Forces. Former 27-year CIA analyst who gave several presidents their daily CIA briefings, Ray McGovern, stated that he "does not rule out Western involvement in this week's Askariya mosque bombing." He was quoted as saying, "The main question is Qui Bono? Who benefits from this kind of thing? You don't have to be very conspiratorial or even paranoid to suggest that there are a whole bunch of likely suspects out there and not only the Sunnis. You know, the British officers were arrested, dressed up in Arab garb, riding around in a car, so this stuff goes on."
Death Squads for "Freedom"
In January of 2005, Newsweek reported on a Pentagon program termed the "Salvador Option" being discussed to be deployed in Iraq. This strategy "dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers." Updating the strategy to Iraq, "one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions."
The Times reported that, "the Pentagon is considering forming hit squads of Kurdish and Shia fighters to target leaders of the Iraqi insurgency in a strategic shift borrowed from the American struggle against left-wing guerrillas in Central America 20 years ago. Under the so-called 'El Salvador option’, Iraqi and American forces would be sent to kill or kidnap insurgency leaders." It further stated, "Hit squads would be controversial and would probably be kept secret," as "The experience of the so-called "death squads" in Central America remains raw for many even now and helped to sully the image of the United States in the region." Further, "John Negroponte, the US Ambassador in Baghdad, had a front-row seat at the time as Ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85."
By June of 2005, mass executions were taking place in Iraq in the six months since January, and, "What is particularly striking is that many of those killings have taken place since the Police Commandos became operationally active and often correspond with areas where they have been deployed."
In May of 2007, an Iraqi who formerly collaborated with US forces in Iraq for two and a half years stated that, "I was a soldier in the Iraqi army in the war of 1991 and during the withdrawal from Kuwait I decided to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia along with dozens of others like me. That was how began the process whereby I was recruited into the American forces, for there were US military committees that chose a number of Iraqis who were willing to volunteer to join them and be transported to America. I was one of those." He spoke out about how after the 2003 invasion, he was returned to Iraq to "carry out specific tasks assigned him by the US agencies." Among those tasks, he was put "in charge of a group of a unit that carried out assassinations in the streets of Baghdad."
He was quoted as saying, "Our task was to carry out assassinations of individuals. The US occupation army would supply us with their names, pictures, and maps of their daily movements to and from their place of residence and we were supposed to kill the Shi'i, for example, in the al-A'zamiyah, and kill the Sunni in the of 'Madinat as-Sadr’, and so on." Further, "Anyone in the unit who made a mistake was killed. Three members of my team were killed by US occupation forces after they failed to assassinate Sunni political figures in Baghdad." He revealed that this "dirty jobs" unit of Iraqis, Americans and other foreigners, "doesn’t only carry out assassinations, but some of them specialize in planting bombs and car bombs in neighborhoods and markets."
He elaborated in saying that "operations of planting car bombs and blowing up explosives in markets are carried out in various ways, the best-known and most famous among the US troops is placing a bomb inside cars as they are being searched at checkpoints. Another way is to put bombs in the cars during interrogations. After the desired person is summoned to one of the US bases, a bomb is place in his car and he is asked to drive to a police station or a market for some purpose and there his car blows up."
Divide and Conquer?
Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, wrote in October of 2006, that, "The evidence that the US directly contributed to the creation of the current civil war in Iraq by its own secretive security strategy is compelling. Historically of course this is nothing new - divide and rule is a strategy for colonial powers that has stood the test of time. Indeed, it was used in the previous British occupation of Iraq around 85 years ago. However, maybe in the current scenario the US just over did it a bit, creating an unstoppable momentum that, while stalling the insurgency, has actually led
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Only Great Minds
Can Read This
fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too. Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can. i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.
The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!
44% of Americans Favour Torture For Terrorist Suspects
A new poll of citizens’ attitudes about torture in 19 nations finds Americans among the most accepting of the practice.
Now Howard Zinn, historian Paul Buhle, and cartoonist Mike Konopacki have collaborated to retell, in vibrant comics form, a most immediate and relevant chapter of A People’s History: the centuries-long story of America's actions in the world. This short animated video explores US expansionism from Wounded Knee to the invasion of Iraq, stopping along the way at World War I, World War II Central America, Vietnam and the Iranian revolution.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
A Forgotten Day Of Infamy
This year marks the 15th anniversary of Clinton's murder of Layla al-Attar
By Malcom Lagauche
June 21, 2008
Many countries have one or two days a year that indicate a national tragedy. In the U.S., December 7, 1941, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, is labeled a "day of infamy." Almost 60 years later, September 11, 2001 surpassed December 7 as a rallying cry for U.S. solidarity.
Iraq, a country much smaller than the U.S., and never as large a player on the international scene, can claim several days of infamy: January 17, 1991 (the beginning of Desert Storm); February 14, 1991 (the destruction of the Amiryah Bomb Shelter); March 20, 2003 (the start of the U.S. illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq); and April 9, 2003, (U.S. forces enter Baghdad) among others. But, one date that gains little international attention is imbedded in the hearts and minds of most Iraqis: June 26, 1993.
On that date, the U.S. military, under the command of Bill Clinton, ordered 23 Tomahawk guided missiles to demolish the headquarters of the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi intelligence services, in central Baghdad. Twenty of the missiles hit the agency complex, while "only" three missed their targets.
A jubilant Clinton took to the airwaves and proclaimed victory. He was happy that only three missed their mark. One could think he was addressing the public about the score of a sporting event.
Of the three that missed, one destroyed the home of Layla al-Attar, killing her and her husband, and blinding her daughter.
Layla al-Attar was the director of the Iraqi National Art Museum and a leading Arab artist who was revered in Iraq much the same as Norman Rockwell was in the U.S. In addition, she was a spokesperson for international peace, for the inner peace of women, and for resistance against U.S. hegemony. Layla al-Attar symbolized Iraq.
When news of al-Attar’s death broke, Iraq mourned. A special person who transcended political ideology and represented all of humankind had been assassinated.
During the Gulf War, her home was almost totally destroyed by U.S. missiles. Two years later, shortly after the completion of the house’s reconstruction, an "errant" missile finished the job that its cousin had only partially performed in earlier years.
Although never proven, it is quite easy to give credence to the theory that Layla al-Attar was the target of a missile, not merely a casualty of "collateral damage" from a misguided projectile. Every Iraqi believes she was marked, but shortly after her execution, the rest of the world forgot.
Outside the Arab world, Layla al-Attar was on the verge of becoming a top international artist. European art galleries were beginning to highlight her work. In the U.S., however, she was little known. Little international outrage was heard when she was killed.
The reason behind the attack was as bogus as any given during the Bush I years. Clinton stated that information was in-hand that showed Iraqi operatives were behind an aborted assassination attempt on former President George Bush in April 1993 at a ceremony praising him in Kuwait. Clinton added that Saddam Hussein ordered the attempt on Bush’s life. At the last minute, those who were to carry out the attack were apprehended and Clinton had to teach the Iraqis a lesson.
The big lie still persisted. Those arrested were merely drug and alcohol smugglers. In the aftermath of the June 26 missile attack, one-by-one the mythical would-be assassins were released from Kuwaiti jails, but, the U.S. media did not consider this information newsworthy. It was not as exciting as assassination plots and missile attacks.
On November 1, 1993, the New Yorker published an article by Seymour Hersh titled "A Case Not Closed." In it, Hersh went into detail about the entire event and basically showed there was no validity to Clinton’s claim.
Why did Clinton order this attack? At the time, Republicans and pro-war Democrats criticized him for being "weak" on Iraq and other invisible threats against the U.S. Clinton had to earn respect. What better target than Iraq, a defenseless country that was isolated because of U.S. propaganda?
According to Hersh:
Three of the million-dollar missiles missed their targets and landed on nearby homes, killing eight civilians, including Layla al-Attar, one of Iraq’s most gifted artists. The death toll was considered acceptable by the White House. Clinton administration officials acknowledged that they had been "lucky," as one national security aide put it, in that only three of the computer-guided missiles went off course.
Thus, on a Saturday in June, the president and his advisors could not resist proving their toughness in the international arena. If they had truly had full confidence in what they were telling the press and the public about Saddam Hussein’s involvement in a plot to kill George bush, they would have almost certainly ordered a far fiercer response than they did. As it was, confronted with evidence too weak to be conclusive but, in their view, perhaps not weak enough to be dismissed, they chose to fire missiles at night at an intelligence center in the middle of a large populous city.
Over the years, many people have uttered, "Saddam tried to kill Bush’s father," in defense of Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. In March 2008, the story took another turn as an unlikely organization admitted the plot was a hoax: the Pentagon.
The March 23, 2008 issue of Newsweek ran an article called "Saddam’s Files," written by Michael Isikoff. It stated:
President Bush said lots of things about Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the Iraq War. But few of his charges grabbed more attention than an unscripted remark he made at a Texas political fund-raiser on Sept. 26, 2002. "After all, this is a guy who tried to kill my dad at one time," Bush said. The comment referred to a 1993 claim by the Kuwaiti government—accepted by the Clinton administration—that the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) had plotted to assassinate President George H. W. Bush during a trip to Kuwait that spring …
But curiously little has been heard about the allegedly foiled assassination plot in the five years since the U.S. military invaded Iraq. A just-released Pentagon study on the Iraqi regime's ties to terrorism only adds to the mystery. The review, conducted for the Pentagon's Joint Forces Command, combed through 600,000 pages of Iraqi intelligence documents seized after the fall of Baghdad, as well as thousands of hours of audio- and videotapes of Saddam's conversations with his ministers and top aides …
… But the Pentagon researchers found no documents that referred to a plan to kill Bush. The absence was conspicuous because researchers, aware of its potential significance, were looking for such evidence. "It was surprising," said one source familiar with the preparation of the report (who under Pentagon ground rules was not permitted to speak on the record). Given how much the Iraqis did document, "you would have thought there would have been some veiled reference to something about [the plot]."
Despite the Pentagon coming clean after 15 years of the public believing a myth about the nonexistent assassination attempt, not too much has changed in the perception and reporting of those times. In April 2008, weeks after the Pentagon announced the Kuwaiti hoax, the National Defense University, a quasi-government organization, published a report called Choosing War: The Decision to Invade Iraq and Its Aftermath," written by Colonel Joseph J. Collins, a retired U.S. Army officer.
Collins seemed to be writing about a fantasy scenario of Iraq. His assessments were not accurate and at times, differed greatly from the facts. One of them stated: "Since the Republicans had last been in power, Saddam had tried to assassinate the elder Bush." No one challenged Collins’ statement, despite the Pentagon’s earlier declaration. It appears that no matter how many people debunk this lie, it has a life of its own and will go down in history as fact.
Hersh was quite right in his assessment of picking on the weak. U.S. citizens take pride in the fact that their society scorns bullies who pick on defenseless adversaries. However, they contradict their own philosophy by cheering on the murdering of foreign civilians who are the weakest prey of all.
I know that a few days from now, most Iraqis will be mourning the assassination of Layla al-Attar that occurred 15 years ago. And, on that day, those resistance fighters who are at work will remember her as well. Her legacy is why they are fighting today. I wonder if Bill Clinton, as he leaves his church of choice this Sunday, Bible in hand and being photographed by the press, will remember Layla al-Attar.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Lost In The Cyberspace
Google's censorship against Uruknet
Google must really have a thing against Uruknet. After Google News’ censorship now Uruknet disappears even on Google’s search engine.
Google stopped indexing Uruknet the middle of May. After Uruknet wrote (again!) many e-mails to Google (and again! we didn’t receive any reply) Google restarted indexing some (not all!) Uruknet’s article on June 17. However, it seems that these articles have a short life on Google since they keep disappearing immediately after they are indexed.
For instance this is a Google’s page saved today, June 19, at 3pm Rome time and this is the same search Google page, the same day at 10 pm Rome time - While the first page at 3pm shows the Uruknet’s article indexed by Google, in the second page’s results the article disappeared and Google left simply the Uruknet’s homepage. Moreover Uruknet’s articles indexed by Google before the middle of May are being disappearing as if someone is manually deleting them. As odd it may seem, it’s as if someone inside Google deleted the indexed article.
Google has already stopped indexing Uruknet from Google News, justifying it with lies and preposterous excuses. Now it seems Google is deleting even those Uruknet’s articles that had already been automatically indexed by the search engine.
Furthermore Google search engine shows Uruknet’s results at the very last position, if at all.
Google’s censorship becomes very clear if one contrasts and compares the search of the word "uruknet" on Google and Yahoo.
Searching the word "uruknet" on Google this evening the results were 194,000.
On Yahoo the same word shows 1,550,000 results.
We don’t ask anymore our readers to write to Google since we lost even our last hopes in their fairness and good faith, but we would be grateful if our readers could post and distribute this article over the Internet; this affair goes far beyond Uruknet and Internet censorship is a real threat and is happening now.
Of course we reserve the right to take legal action against Google.
Click HERE to visit Uruknet, information from occupied iraq
Cashes In On Iraq Slaughter
Bill Van Auken, WSWS
20 June 2008
Four major US, British and French oil companies are getting their hands on the petroleum reserves of Iraq for the first time in 36 years, based on no-bid contracts, the New York Times reported Thursday.
These deals reached with the US-backed regime in Baghdad have placed the five-year-old US war of aggression in the clearest possible perspective.
For the thousands of American families who have seen their sons and daughters killed in the Iraq war or return maimed or psychologically damaged, the knowledge that their sacrifices have opened up potentially huge new profit streams for Exxon-Mobil, Shell, British Petroleum and Total will provide cold comfort.
For the over one million Iraqis killed and the millions more turned into refugees or made homeless in their own land, an overriding justification for their suffering has now been laid bare. It was to further enrich the already obscenely wealthy corporate executives and major shareholders of Big Oil.
As the New York Times reported Thursday: "The deals, expected to be announced on June 30, will lay the foundation for the first commercial work for the major companies in Iraq since the American invasion, and open a new and potentially lucrative country for their operations."
The Times acknowledged that "The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India."
No-bid deals in the oil sector are not only "unusual," under conditions in which oil demand is at an all-time high crude is selling for nearly $140 a barrel and energy-producing countries around the world—Russia, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, Bolivia and others—are exerting a tighter national grip over their reserves. Such contracts cannot be explained outside of their being negotiated at the point of a gun.
The deals have been structured as "service agreements" in order to circumvent restrictions that would have ensued under Iraq’s draft oil law, which the Iraqi parliament has proven unable to pass because of both nationalist opposition to foreign exploitation of the country’s reserves and disputes between the federal government and Iraqi regional entities over control of the oil fields.
In reality, however, the two-year deals provide for payment to foreign companies in oil, opening up the possibility of substantial profits. Moreover, as one oil expert commented, they provide the "foothold" for the four major Western companies, paving the way to far more intensive exploitation.
A total of 46 companies, including Lukoil of Russia, China National, India’s major oil company and others had memorandums of understanding with the Iraqi Oil Ministry, according to the Times.
Yet none of them were allowed to bid for contracts. Instead, the deals are being handed over without any competition to Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Total and British Petroleum.
The Times comments, "While the current contracts are unrelated to the companies’ previous work in Iraq, in a twist of corporate history for some of the world’s largest companies, all four oil majors that had lost their concessions in Iraq are now back."
In a similar vein, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Fox News: "The United States government has stayed out of the matter of awarding the Iraqi oil contracts. It’s a private sector matter." However Rice, a former director of Chevron, which is participating in one of the contracts in a consortium with Total, acknowledged that with the new deals "it’s starting to get interesting in Iraq."
This is all nonsense and lies. The new contracts have everything to do with the role played by these companies decades ago and their determination to wrest back the control they exercised before Iraq nationalized its oil industry and ejected the US and British oil giants in 1972, a move that ushered in a wave of nationalizations throughout the oil-producing countries.
Before then, the Iraq Petroleum Company was dominated by the US and British companies, which controlled three-quarters of the country’s oil production.
Moreover, the US government has worked over decades to re-impose American domination over Iraq, which has the second largest proven oil reserves—115 billion barrels—and the largest unexplored reserves of any country in the world.
The disingenuous explanation given by the US-dominated Iraqi regime—and echoed by the Times—for the supposedly serendipitous return to dominance of the very companies that controlled the country’s oil production 36 years ago is that "they had been advising the ministry without charge."
Yet, as the Times article notes, Russia’s Lukoil, which had been training Iraqi oil engineers free of charge, is being thrown out of an oilfield where it held a previously signed contract, in order to make way for Chevron and Total.
The reality is that these contracts are the direct product of armed aggression. In the wake of the invasion, US troops seized control of the oilfields and secured the Oil Ministry in Baghdad, even as it left every other governmental and cultural institution to the mercy of the looters. It then selected Phillip Carroll, the former president of Shell Oil, to head up an "advisory board" to assume control over the ministry.
As the Times delicately notes: "It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry."
The drive by the US government and the oil monopolies to regain their control over Iraq’s oil wealth began well before the Bush administration launched its unprovoked war in March 2003 and constitutes a bipartisan policy that has been pursued by Democratic and Republican administrations alike.
In the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the conditions emerged for US imperialism to pursue this strategic aim with continuously escalating violence and aggression.
After Iraq’s infrastructure was shattered in the Persian Gulf War of 1991, the Clinton administration campaigned for punishing United Nations sanctions that choked off essential food and medical supplies and resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of additional lives.
The critical strategic aim of these sanctions was to block the resumption of oil production and prevent the realization of contracts signed between the government of Saddam Hussein and foreign rivals of the big US and British companies, particularly Russian and Chinese producers as well as France’s Total.
This was combined with stepped-up military attacks, as the Clinton administration hammered Iraq with cruise missiles in a series of strikes dubbed Operation Phoenix Scorpion, Operation Desert Thunder and Operation Desert Fox, all preludes to the ultimate invasion.
At the same time, Clinton signed into law the "Iraq Liberation Act of 1998," leveling the charges of "weapons of mass destruction" that would be used to justify war less than three years later and declaring that US policy was "to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq."
With the installation of the Bush administration, preparations for the armed takeover of Iraq began in earnest. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act from a national energy task force chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney in early 2001 included a map of Iraq’s oilfields and a list of "foreign suitors for Iraqi oilfield contracts."
The imposition of the contracts for the four big oil firms has confirmed what the Iraq war was about from its conception—well before the September 11, 2001 attacks. The false claims about "weapons of mass destruction" and the invention of ties between Baghdad and Al Qaeda were pretexts for a war aimed at re-establishing semi-colonial control over Iraq and its oil wealth, thereby furthering the US drive for global hegemony.
What is involved is a conspiracy by the government and powerful corporations to foist a war of aggression onto the American people.
Far from provoking outrage or the calls for investigations, however, news of the oil contracts has been met with a deafening silence from the mass media and the political establishment alike. The same television news outlets that trumpeted the Bush administration’s lies about WMD and terrorism passed over the oil deals without a mention.
There is ample evidence that furthering the interests of the oil conglomerates and American imperialism as a whole by continuing the war and occupation in Iraq remains a consensus policy supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.
On the same day that news of the oil contracts broke, the Democratic leadership of the House moved to approve another $165 billion Iraq war funding package, bringing the total amount legislated by Congress to continue a war that is opposed by the overwhelming majority of the American people to over $600 billion.
The 2008 presidential election contest has been presented by the media and the two presidential candidates—Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain—as a choice between a US withdrawal from Iraq or continuing the war until victory.
Yet, the ongoing negotiations over a "Status of Force Agreement," or SOFA, providing for the long-term presence of US occupation troops in the country has pointed to an underlying agreement on Washington’s future course.
Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, in Washington for the talks on the SOFA, held discussions this week with both McCain and Obama on future US policy in the country.
The Washington Post quoted Zebari Wednesday as saying that Obama had assured him that a Democratic administration would "not take any irresponsible, reckless, sudden decisions or actions." Obama explained, he said, that he "wants redeployment," but that he "is not interested to pull all troops out. He wants a residual force" in Iraq to carry out anti-terrorist operations, protect US facilities and train Iraqi security forces.
According to the Post the Iraqi foreign minister concluded that "there was 'not too much difference’ between Obama’s position and that of the presumptive Republican nominee..."
In other words, both candidates are determined to continue shedding blood—Iraqi and US alike—to advance the cause of securing Iraq’s oil reserves for Exxon-Mobil and the other energy corporations and to create a base of operations for new and even bloodier wars of aggression in the region, including against Iran.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Cuba & Venezuela
BY César Lopez Gil
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frías said today that the revolutions in Cuba and his country are successfully moving forward and affirmed that this triumphant advance will not be halted by Yankee imperialism.
The Cuban Revolution will soon be celebrating its 50th anniversary and the Bolivarian its 10th and, whatever the initiatives of U.S. imperialism may be, we will continue to defeat them, declared the president on his arrival in this capital for a working visit with the Cuban government.
Chávez spoke at length with journalists after being received by Carlos Lage, vice president of the Council of State and secretary of the executive committee of the Council of Ministers, and by Felipe Pérez Roque, minister for foreign relations.
“How wonderful to be in Havana!” were his first words on arriving at the José Martí International Airport, after which he recalled that on a day such as this in 1954, violence consumed the Guatemala of President Jacobo Arbenz.
Dressed in an olive green jacket, black trousers and red T-shirt, the Bolivarian leader specified that Ernesto Che Guevara had been there at the time, while Fidel Castro was imprisoned for the events at the Moncada garrison and he (Chávez) was about to be born.
The revolutions in Latin America have been thus, they have been one and the same, started by Simón Bolívar and José Martí, and continuing with Fidel and Che, he said.
Fidel is the father of all Latin American revolutionaries, he affirmed.
Chávez commented that his second trip to Cuba this year is for the purpose of reviewing the state of bilateral relations with Raúl, Fidel and the executive of the Cuban government, as well as discussing the current world situation.
“Some days ago, I received a note from Fidel in which he referred to the worsening of the energy, food and financial crisis throughout the world,” Chávez said, “as well as the increase of poverty, famine and other critical situations caused by climate change and other threats.
“Fidel calls this situation the mother of all crisis and, in short, is a crisis of ideas, of governments, of the model, of capitalism in general; we’re going to discuss all of this,” stated the president.
He remarked that the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean will be the object of special attention and, particularly, a revision of the joint ventures and relationships established within the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), of which both Cuba and Venezuela are founding members.
Other issues to be discussed are the refineries, food production, sciences, biotechnology, medicine and other matters in which we are advancing, he stated.
“One very important subject is the Bank of ALBA and how all the money we are making available can be used for the benefit of our peoples and others in Latin America,” he commented.
Likewise, he did not rule out the possibility of new areas of integration, principally in the production of foodstuffs, as well as other initiatives in the sphere of politics, social issues and the energy sector.
There is a permanent initiative, a revolution always implies new initiatives, a revolution is creativity, declared Chávez and went on to mention a new mission that has been created in his country – Boys and Girls in the Barrio – which was launched last Sunday during his “Aló Presidente” program. Asked by journalists about the possibility of a U.S. base being installed in Colombia, Chávez declared that the administration in Washington has an imperialist strategy that continues to threaten the peoples of the continent.
He explained that there are right now aircraft, ships and troops at a base in Curacao, as well as at the Manta base within Ecuadorian territory, but that whatever actions the U.S. takes, it will be defeated.
“We will celebrate 50 years of the Cuban revolution with life, with victory, growth and expansion of this process,” he asserted.
The Venezuelan president related how this past Sunday evening he met with a group of Cuban doctors for Fathers’ Day and how he recalled the difficult times experienced by the Cuban people during the so-called Special Period.
It was a heroic resistance, he said, recalling what he saw in 1994, during his first visit to Havana. One has to know in order to value, he asserted.
After having experienced this difficult stage, Cuba is experiencing a marked expansion, politically, economically and socially, the leader said.
Fidel is alive and kicking, breaking new trails from his post as a soldier of ideas, Raúl is here, holding the reins and the Cuban people, working, creating, in order to move forward, Chávez emphasized.
He spoke of the visit he made to Santiago de Cuba this past December and how, upon seeing the sea of people who came out to greet him and Raúl, he had said, “Now, more than ever, this Revolution is alive.”
He likewise commented that the Bolivarian revolution has its “flags waving and drums beating” after having suffered the coup d’état, sabotage of the oil industry and other acts of aggression and attacks by the imperialists and their oligarchic lackeys.
He assured reporters that in the regional elections scheduled for this coming November, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) will deal its opponents a resounding defeat and that recent polls indicate that this political organization enjoys the support of more than 40% of voters.
It is impressive that such a recently formed party could garner this kind of support, the Bolivarian leader pointed out.
Chávez said that the Venezuelan people appreciate and benefit from the achievements won through the revolutionary process, in all sectors and spheres of the economy and society, offering sports as an example, with more than 100 Venezuelan athletes set to participate in the Beijing Olympic Games. Despite the country’s wealth, under past governments, 20, 30 or 40 would go. Now, the president indicated, there are 105.
All of this, he said, came as a result of the Venezuelan people’s efforts, the priority given to sports by the government, the investment of human capital, the development of strategic plans and, especially, the generous support of hundreds of Cuban coaches.
Chávez asked reporters where the Bolivarian revolution would be without the Cuban revolution and stated that the struggle in his country had benefited from the experience, the generosity and the spirit offered by Fidel and the Cuban people.
The president said that the Bolivarian revolution is growing stronger, in its political, economic and social structure, as well as in its ideas and the unity of its supporters. He emphasized that the army and other branches of the armed forces had recently conducted military maneuvers with excellent results.
Concluding his comments, Chávez said that he would give Fidel a special greeting on behalf of his people. (AIN)