Archive for January, 2008

Missing Voices in the Iraq Debate

January 30, 2008

Missing Voices in the Iraq Debate
Iraqis on “success” and “progress” in their country. Dahr Jamail
January 28 , 2008

This March 19 will be the fifth anniversary of the shock-and-awe air assault on Baghdad that signaled the opening of the invasion of Iraq, and when it comes to the American occupation of that country, no end is yet in sight. If Republican presidential candidate John McCain has anything to say about it, the occupation may never end. On January 7th, he assured reporters that he was more than fine with the idea of the U.S. military remaining in Iraq for 100 years. “We’ve been in Japan for 60 years. We’ve been in South Korea 50 years or so… As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That’s fine with me.”

He said nothing, of course, about Iraqis “injured or harmed or wounded or killed.” In fact, amid the flurries of words, accusations, and “debates” which have filled the airways and add up to the primary-season presidential campaign, there has been a near thunderous silence on Iraq lately—and especially on Iraqis.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll indicated that 64% of Americans now feel the war in Iraq was not worth fighting. American opinion on the war and occupation, in fact, seems remarkably unaffected by the positive spin—all those “success” stories in the mainstream media—of these post-surge months. The media now tells us that Iraq is going to be taking a distinct backseat to domestic economic issues, that Americans are no longer as concerned about it.

Once again, with rare exceptions, that media has had a hand in erasing the catastrophe of Iraq from the American landscape, if not the collective consciousness of the public. What, it occurred to me recently, do my friends and acquaintances back in Iraq (where I covered the occupation for eight months during the years 2003-2005) think not just about their lives and the fate of their country, but about our attitudes toward them? What do they think about the “success”—and the silence—in America?

On October 6, 2004, George W. Bush proclaimed: “Iraq is no diversion; it is the place where civilization is taking a decisive stand against chaos and terror—and we must not waver.”

Iraqis, of course, continue to witness firsthand this “decisive stand against chaos and terror.” In our world, however, they are largely mute witnesses. Americans may argue among themselves about just how much “success” or “progress” there really is in post-surge Iraq, but it is almost invariably an argument in which Iraqis are but stick figures—or dead bodies. Of late, I have been asking Iraqis I know by email what they make of the American version (or versions) of the unseemly reality that is their country, that they live and suffer with. What does it mean to become a “secondary issue” for your occupier?

In response, Professor S. Abdul Majeed Hassan, an Iraqi university faculty member wrote me the following:

“The year of 2007 was the bloodiest among the occupation years, and no matter how successful the situation looks to Mr. Bush, reality is totally different. What kind of normal life are he and the media referring to where four and a half million highly educated Iraqis are still dislocated or still being forcefully driven out of their homes for being anti-occupation? How can the people live a normal life in a cage of concrete walls [she is referring to concrete walls being erected by the Americans around entire Baghdad neighborhoods], guarded by their kidnappers, killers, and occupation forces? What kind of normal life can you live where tens of your relatives and your beloved ones are either missing or in jail and you don’t even know if they are still alive or, after being tortured, have been thrown unidentified in the dumpsters? “What kind of normal life can you live when you have to bid farewell to your family each time you go out to buy bread because you don’t know if you are going to see them again? What is a normal life to Mr. Bush? If we’re lucky, we get a few hours of electricity a day, barely enough drinking water, no health care, no jobs to feed our kids…

“Little teenage girls are given away in marriage because their families can’t protect them from militias and troops during raids. Women cannot move unescorted anymore. What kind of educations are our children getting at universities where 60% of the prominent faculty members have been driven out of their jobs—killed or forced to leave the country by government militias? Is it normal that areas [on the outskirts of Baghdad] like Saidiya and Arab Jubour are bombed because the occupation forces are afraid to enter the areas for fear of the resistance? It is always easier to control ghost cities. It becomes very peaceful without the people.”

On January 8th, President Bush held video teleconferences with General David Petraeus and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, as well as with the U.S.-backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and with members of U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Iraq. Afterwards, he told reporters at a press conference, “It was clear from my discussions that there’s great hope in Iraq, that the Iraqis are beginning to see political progress that is matching the dramatic security gains for the past year.” Members of the PRTs, he claimed, had told him that”[l]ife is returning to normal in communities across Iraq, with children back in school and shops reopening and markets bustling with commerce.” Bush thanked members of those teams for “making 2007, particularly the end of 2007, become incredibly successful beyond anybody’s expectations.”

Mohammad Mahri’i, an Iraqi journalist, has a rather different take on the situation: “The problem with Bush is that his people believe him every time he lies to them,” he writes me. “His reconstruction teams are invisible and I wish they could show me one inch above the ground that they built.”

Maki al-Nazzal, an Iraqi political analyst from Fallujah who has been forced to live abroad with his family, thanks to ongoing violence and the lack of jobs or significant reconstruction activity in his city, which was three-quarters destroyed in a U.S. assault in November 2004, offered me his thoughts on the Western mainstream coverage of Iraq.

“The media should not follow the warlords’ and politicians’ propaganda. It is our duty to search for the truth and not repeat lies like parrots. The U.S. occupation is bad and no amount of media propaganda can camouflage the mess inside occupied Iraq. We are ashamed of the local and Western media [for] marketing the naked lies told by generals and politicians. Comparing two halves of 2007 is ridiculous. “Bush and his heroes, [head of the Coalition Provisional Authority L. Paul] Bremer, [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and now Petraeus always lied to their people and the world about Iraq. U.S. soldiers are getting killed on a daily basis and so are Iraqi army and police officers. Infrastructure is destroyed. In a country that used to feed much of the Arab world, starvation is now the norm. It is ironic that Iraq was not half as bad during the 12 years of sanctions. Our liberation has pushed us into a state of unprecedented corruption.”

General David Petraeus, U.S. surge commander in Iraq, insists that “we and our Iraqi partners will… continue to look beyond the security realm to help the Iraqis improve basic services, revitalize local markets, repair damaged infrastructure and create conditions that allow displaced families to return to their homes.”

Iraqis know differently. Al-Nazzal is realistic:

“Petraeus wants us to celebrate the return [to Baghdad] of 50,000 Iraqis who were starving in Syria, when five million remain in exile and internally displaced. What he conveniently forgets to mention is that those who returned found their houses either destroyed or occupied by others. He also wants to be praised for handing over the nation’s security to militias he allowed to form rather than to academics and technocrats. Iraq has no medicines in its hospitals, no electricity, no potable water, no real security, and no well-guarded borders. Nevertheless, some people say they are happy for what is going on in Iraq!”

Much as they would like to believe the claims of success and progress from American officials, Iraqis—surrounded by disaster—cannot do so.

37-year-old Sammy Tahir, a Kurdish education advisor living in Baghdad, offers the following assessment of the cautious but upbeat claims being made by Petraeus and others:

“No improvement in any service can be found in Iraq. On the contrary, we are much worse now and we are back to painting old buildings to make them look better. Kurdistan is still full of displaced Iraqis from southern and mid-Iraq.”

About this Mari’i writes:

“It was the generals who destroyed Iraq in the first place and I do not see any improvement in basic services. For example, most of Baghdad has been without electricity for about two weeks at the time of writing!”

Professor Hassan shares a similar view:

“What the Americans hadn’t destroyed by the end of the military operations of 2003, they have finished off over the past four years, and I don’t think that the occupation forces and their assigned government would like to do anything about the displacement of Iraqi families, simply because they are the ones who created that situation. “The sectarian violence, which led to this mass displacement, was initiated by the U.S. and its allies to divide the Iraqi community in accordance with American plans and the published ‘new’ Iraqi constitution, which emphasizes sectarian issues. The occupation would like to divide Iraq into small sectarian and ethnic regions to be able to easily command, control, and conquer them. The major objective of the occupation is to control oil production and reserves in Iraq and the Middle East region. Displacing families is, to them, acceptable collateral damage.”

According to Tahir:

“Children always went to school before the late 2007 crackdown and it was mainly the military operations that stopped them from doing so in some areas where the Americans attacked towns and villages. Bush has been saying the same words since 2003, but things have always gotten progressively worse in Iraq. He and his generals are destroying both Iraq and the U.S. by continuing this war. The U.S. economy will never hold against the expenses of war and Iraq is totally destroyed.”

During a surprise visit to Baghdad on January 15th, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said that last year’s “surge” of American forces was paying dividends and suggested that she could “help push the momentum by her very presence” in Iraq.

Mahri’i’s offers a lament for the American presence and those “dividends”:

“It seems that Americans do not care about what has been done to Iraq. They decorated Bremer, who is a war criminal, with top medals. [In December 2004, Bush bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on him.] Why not honor another criminal like Petraeus and other Bush administration officials with the same medals for lying to them while their soldiers and our people are getting killed?”

Tahir, on the other hand, has a warning: “It seems that all U.S. politicians and the majority of Americans think the way [Sen.] McCain does. But they should not think Iraq is Japan or South Korea.”

Mahri’i agrees: “Such leaders will write the final page of history for their country. If Americans keep electing such adventurers, then I can see the end of their country approaching fast.”

Professor Hassan states what is clearly on the minds of many Iraqis as the occupation grinds on and the American presidential race revs up, though she may be more charitable than many of her compatriots:

“Most Americans figured out the real reasons behind the invasion of Iraq and the terrible consequences of that war for them, currently and in the future. The American people I know are kind, considerate, and understanding. I am sure they will do what it will take to end this occupation. They know by now that this is not a war of the American people; it is the oil companies’ war, so why should they sacrifice their young men and women for oil companies’ greed?”

Last October, speaking of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation at Stanford University, where he is now a visiting fellow of the Hoover Institute, former CENTCOM Commander General John Abizaid told the audience, “Of course it’s about oil, we can’t really deny that.” General Abizaid’s comment came roughly a month after former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan wrote in his memoir, “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

While many in the U.S., along with Bush administration officials and leading presidential candidates (both Democratic and Republican) continue to refuse to grasp the magnitude of the catastrophe that is the occupation of Iraq, Iraqis don’t have the same luxury.

Early on in my time in Iraq, during the first year of the occupation, the Iraqis I met were generally quick to differentiate between the policies of the U.S. government and the desires of the American people.

Over time, after brutal U.S. military operations against cities like Najaf, Fallujah, Al-Qa’im, Samarra, and Ramadi, after Abu Ghraib, after Haditha, after the near-total collapse of their country’s infrastructure and the shredding of its social fabric, I began to witness occupation-weary Iraqis ceasing to draw that same critical line.

Recently, a resident of Baquba (who asked not to be identified by name for fear of retribution for talking to the media), told my Iraqi colleague Ahmed Ali, “The lack of security is a direct result of the occupation. The Americans crossed thousands of miles to destroy our home and kill our men. They are the reason for all our disasters.”

Abu Tariq, a merchant from Baquba, believes the U.S. military intentionally destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure. He told Ali,

“The Americans destroyed the electricity, water-pumping stations, factories, bridges, highways, hospitals, schools, burnt the buildings, and opened the borders for the strangers and terrorists to get easily into the country. The one who does all these things is void of humanity. I hate America and Americans.”

Abu Taiseer, another resident of Baquba, summed up Iraqi bitterness this way:

“At the very beginning of the occupation, the people of Iraq did not realize the U.S. strategy in the area. Their strategy is based on destruction and massacres. They do anything to have their agenda fulfilled. Now, Iraqis know that behind the U.S. smile is hatred and violence. They call others violent and terrorists while what they are doing in Iraq and in other countries is the origin and essence of terror.”

Jalal al-Taee, a retired teacher, told Ali what more Iraqis than ever likely believe:

“In Baquba, people have severe hatred towards the Americans and a large number of residents have become enemies of the U.S. army. The people of Diyala province have been oppressed and treated unjustly by the U.S. army and the [Baghdad] government. In order to improve the situation, the U.S. army should let the people of this city rule it by themselves.”

Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist, is the author of the recently published Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007). Over the last four years, Jamail has reported from occupied Iraq as well as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. He writes regularly for Tomdispatch.com, Inter Press Service, Asia Times, and Foreign Policy in Focus. He has contributed to the Sunday Herald, the Independent, the Guardian, and the Nation magazine, among other publications. He maintains a website, Dahr Jamail’s Mideast Dispatches, with all his writing.

Follow the Money? God forbid.

January 30, 2008

Follow the Money? God forbid.

Why was the cashing out of billions of dollars just before the 9/11 attacks never investigated?

by Jim Hogue

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Had an investigation been done into the crime of failing to file the “currency transaction reports” in August 2001, then we would know who made the cash withdrawals in $100 bills amounting to the $5 billion surge.

<!– –>It’s been over six years since 9/11, but U.S. regulatory entities have been slow to follow through with reports about the complex financial transactions that occurred just prior to and following the attacks. Such research could shed light on such questions as who was behind them—and who benefited—and could help lay to rest the rumors that have been festering.

Warning bells about anomalies in the fiscal sector were sounded in the summer of 2001, but not heeded. Among those who has since raised questions was Bill Bergman. As a financial market analyst for the Federal Reserve, he was assigned in 2003 to review the record of July and August of 2001. He noticed an unusual surge in the currency component of the M1 money supply (cash circulating outside of banks) during that period. The surge totaled over $5 billion above the norm for a two-month increase. The increase in August alone was the third largest single monthly increase since 1947, even after a significantly above-average month in July.

When reviewing the record of July and August of 2001, Bill Bergman noticed a $5 billion surge in the currency component of the M1 money supply—the third largest such increase since 1947. Bergman asked about this anomaly—and was removed from his investigative duties.

Surges in the currency component of M1 are often the result of people withdrawing their cash to protect themselves lest some anticipated disaster (such as Y2K) befall the economy. In January of 1991 a surge was recorded (the then second-largest since ’47), which could be attributed to “war-time hoarding” before the Iraq I invasion, but could also be attributed to financial maneuverings and liquefying of assets relating to the BCCI enforcement proceedings. Bergman points out that the August 2001 withdrawals may have been, to a large extent, caused by the Argentinian banking crisis that was occurring at the time. However, he raises the point that no explanation has yet fully answered the important question: Why was the cashing out of billions of dollars just before the 9/11 attacks never investigated? It’s possible that the answer to this question is also the answer to the other follow-the-money questions surrounding 9/11; and despite an embarrassing heap of evidence, neither the press, nor Congress, nor any agency with investigative responsibility has done its job on our behalf. On the contrary, their inaction might reasonably be construed as a cover-up.

Bergman “followed the money,” including developing a framework for working with money-laundering data and “suspicious activity” reports for monitoring and investigating terrorism. The questions he asked about what happened during the summer of 2001 should have led to investigations, which should have resulted in the prosecution of those with foreknowledge of the attacks.

Those who follow the history of the 9/11 fact-finding movement know that there is a laundry-list of unanswered questions that are just as compelling as those put forth by Bergman. And there is also a laundry-list of whistle-blowers who have been fired and subsequently ignored. So it is not at all surprising that Bergman was removed from his investigative duties, and that his concerns were not publicly addressed.

Bergman’s supervisor instructed him follow up on an unanswered question he had raised pertaining to an August 2, 2001 letter from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve to the 12 Reserve Banks. This letter urged scrutiny of suspicious activity reports. Bergman learned of the pervasiveness of the warnings of the 9/11 attacks, and wondered how thoroughly these warnings had permeated the financial system.

In this capacity as Federal Reserve investigative point-man, and with his money-laundering portfolio being guided by his supervisor’s directive, he asked the Board why they had issued their August 2, 2001 directive, and whether this related to any heightened intelligence of a terrorist threat. His position was then eliminated, and a crucial investigation was terminated before it could even begin.

Another 9/11 Commission Misrepresentation

Footnote 28 of the Staff Monograph on Terrorist Financing from the official 9/11 Commission Report states that the National Money-laundering Strategy Report for 2001 “didn’t mention terrorist financing in any of its 50 pages.”

True? No. The NMLS Report mentions it 17 times. One gets the impression that the commission staff (under Philip Zelikow) was trying to paint the picture that there wasn’t a lot of co-operation between those involved in counterterrorism and the banking regulators in 2001. Why do they paint this picture, inasmuch as the contrary is the case? In fact, anti-terrorism was an important element of the National Money Strategy, and it was included and emphasized in its Report annually. It may have been part of the reason why the August 2, 2001 letter urging scrutiny of suspicious activity reports was issued in the first place.

In turn, the billions in currency shipments of July and August 2001 are completely omitted in the 9/11 Commission Report. I make bold to point out that the official story-line is that the attacks were accomplished by “the evil-doers” on a shoe-string budget with little money changing hands. Therefore, according to Zelikow et al., it is pointless to look at large flows of money in an investigation of the attacks. That makes perfect sense—unless you happen to have a brain.

To state the obvious, there are two reasons why Zelikow et al. made the false statement regarding there having been no references to terrorism in the National Money-laundering Strategy Report. One reason could be to justify and encourage more scrutiny (legal or otherwise) of small transactions generally, e.g. via USAPA, and the other could be to establish (read: invent) a reason for missing the evidence pertaining to the attacks. (‘Transactions too small. No one could find.’) And since the real money trail points to foreknowledge within the financial community at large, and, possibly, the Federal Reserve specifically, the “low-budget terrorism” story-line that the 9/11 Commission had established needed to be protected.

If such a lack of attentiveness to a financial transaction of $5 billion goes unnoticed in August 2001, then a reason had to be established for this lack of attention. And Bergman’s attentiveness to the Board of Governor’s August 2 letter was the fly in the ointment, as this letter proves that the Board was indeed attentive to suspicious transactions, even very, very large ones. Bergman’s question of “Why” is therefore key to yet another avenue of inquiry.

All the News that’s Permissible to Print

Note that a few dollars sent to an Islamic charity could warrant arrests, investigations, front-page stories, and, sometimes, torture and many years in jail. That’s Propaganda 101: ‘Large amounts of money do not fund major acts of terrorism. Small amounts do. Small amounts covered the 9/11 tab, therefore large amounts didn’t.’ The news coverage, creating high-profile prosecutions for relatively small transactions, reinforces this scenario.

With this in mind, we suggest that the reader follow the story of Mark Siljander (major coverage) on the one hand, and also follow the Times UK reports from Sibel Edmonds (verboten in the US mainstream press) on the other hand. Edmonds told me recently of the major foreign media outlets that had offered to report her story. Not one major outlet did so in the US. R.T. Naylor suggests, in his wonderful book Satanic Purses, that any major terrorist event that involves a lot of money is ‘state terrorism,’ and this is independently confirmed by Sibel Edmonds’ statements as to the enormous sums changing hands at the time of the 9/11 attacks. I suggest that her testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee (Leahy and Grassley) gave the lie to the official financial myth of 9/11. If Bergman had been allowed to continue his investigation, I suggest that he would have uncovered the same thing. Note that the drug money and other illicit transactions described by Edmonds occurred during the same time period, and the amounts in the billions are comparable.

The Law

To members of the constabulary: the operable statutes are 1) The 1970 Bank Secrecy Act that imposed new financial reporting requirements to facilitate the tracing of questionable transactions and 2) the 1986 Money Laundering Control Act that criminalized the act of money-laundering. Also operable, and of particular relevance in a historical context, is the 1917 Trading With the Enemy Act that was relied upon in October of 1942 to seize the assets of “Hitler’s Bankers in America,” Union Banking, (involving bank vice president Prescott Bush under his father-in-law and bank president, George Walker).

The law is not always followed, and the required “currency transaction reports” are sometimes not filed. The 9/11 Commission Report and the National Money-laundering Strategy Report for 2001 identify those who are involved with large cash transactions. Had the paperwork been done in August of 2001, or an investigation done into the crime of failing to file the “currency transaction reports,” then we would know who made the cash withdrawals in $100 bills amounting to the $5 billion surge.

Information about what transpired took years to develop after the fact. For example, the Federal Reserve fined United Bank of Switzerland and Riggs Bank in 2004.

Mr. Bergman states that he doesn’t want to be a dog barking up the wrong tree, but the authorities, apparently under orders from our top officials, are preventing a standard investigation and the most obvious prosecutorial methodology from going forth.

Congress could step in; a prosecutor could step up. But don’t hold your breath.


Jim Hogue, a former teacher, is now an actor who tours his performance of Ethan Allen. He also operates a small farm in Calais, VT. His seminal articles about Sibel Edmonds and CIA Whistleblower “Miss Moneypenny” may be found in this newspaper’s archives. Bill Bergman currently works in Chicago as an equity analyst for a private sector firm. From 1998 to 2004 he was a senior financial market analyst for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, where his areas of expertise included Insolvency Issues in Derivatives Markets, Money Laundering, and Ethics and Payment System Policy. He holds an M.B.A. in Finance and an M.A. in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

One Bush Left Behind by Greg Palast

January 29, 2008

One Bush Left Behind by Greg Palast

Dandelion Salad

by Greg Palast
January 29th, 2008

Here’s your question, class:

In his State of the Union, the President asked Congress for $300 million for poor kids in the inner city. As there are, officially, 15 million children in America living in poverty, how much is that per child? Correct! $20.

Here’s your second question. The President also demanded that Congress extend his tax cuts. The cost: $4.3 trillion over ten years. The big recipients are millionaires. And the number of millionaires happens, not coincidentally, to equal the number of poor kids, roughly 15 million of them. OK class: what is the cost of the tax cut per millionaire? That’s right, Richie, $287,000 apiece.

Mr. Bush said, “In neighborhoods across our country, there are boys and girls with dreams. And a decent education is their only hope of achieving them.”

So how much educational dreaming will $20 buy?

-George Bush’s alma mater, Phillips Andover Academy, tells us their annual tuition is $37,200. The $20 “Pell Grant for Kids,” as the White House calls it, will buy a poor kid about 35 minutes of this educational dream. So they’ll have to wake up quickly.

-$20 won’t cover the cost of the final book in the Harry Potter series.

If you can’t buy a book nor pay tuition with a sawbuck, what exactly can a poor kid buy with $20 in urban America? The Palast Investigative Team donned baseball caps and big pants and discovered we could obtain what local citizens call a “rock” of crack cocaine. For $20, we were guaranteed we could fulfill any kid’s dream for at least 15 minutes.

Now we could see the incontrovertible logic in what appeared to be quixotic ravings by the President about free trade with Colombia, Pell Grant for Kids and the surge in Iraq. In Iraq, General Petraeus tells us we must continue to feed in troops for another ten years. There is no way the military can recruit these freedom fighters unless our lower income youth are high, hooked and desperate. Don’t say, ‘crack vials,’ they’re, ‘Democracy Rocks’!

The plan would have been clearer if Mr. Bush had kept in his speech the line from his original draft which read, “I have ordered 30,000 additional troops to Iraq this year – and I am proud to say my military-age kids are not among them.”

Of course, there’s an effective alternative to Mr. Bush’s plan – which won’t cost a penny more. Simply turn it upside down. Let’s give each millionaire in America a $20 bill, and every poor child $287,000.

And, there’s an added benefit to this alternative. Had we turned Mr. Bush and his plan upside down, he could have spoken to Congress from his heart.

-For more on Bush and education read “No Child’s Behind Left” in Armed Madhouse excerpted here.

-Also read Palast’s take on the 2007 State of the Union here.

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Greg Palast is the author of the NY Times best-sellers, Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. View Palast’s investigative reports for BBC Television on our YouTube Channel.

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Why The Right Loves a Disaster By Naomi Klein

January 29, 2008

Why The Right Loves a Disaster By Naomi Klein

Dandelion Salad

By Naomi Klein
ICH
28/01/08 “Los Angeles Times

Moody’s, the credit-rating agency, claims the key to solving the United States’ economic woes is slashing spending on Social Security. The National Assn. of Manufacturers says the fix is for the federal government to adopt the organization’s wish-list of new tax cuts. For Investor’s Business Daily, it is oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, “perhaps the most important stimulus of all.”

But of all the cynical scrambles to package pro-business cash grabs as “economic stimulus,” the prize has to go to Lawrence B. Lindsey, formerly President Bush’s assistant for economic policy and his advisor during the 2001 recession. Lindsey’s plan is to solve a crisis set off by bad lending by extending lots more questionable credit. “One of the easiest things to do would be to allow manufacturers and retailers” — notably Wal-Mart — “to open their own financial institutions, through which they could borrow and lend money,” he wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal.

Never mind that that an increasing number of Americans are defaulting on their credit card payments, raiding their 401(k) accounts and losing their homes. If Lindsey had his way, Wal-Mart, rather than lose sales, could just loan out money to keep its customers shopping, effectively turning the big-box chain into an old-style company store to which Americans can owe their souls.

If this kind of crisis opportunism feels familiar, it’s because it is. Over the last four years, I have been researching a little-explored area of economic history: the way that crises have paved the way for the march of the right-wing economic revolution across the globe. A crisis hits, panic spreads and the ideologues fill the breach, rapidly reengineering societies in the interests of large corporate players. It’s a maneuver I call “disaster capitalism.”

Sometimes the enabling national disasters have been physical blows to countries: wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters. More often they have been economic crises: debt spirals, hyperinflation, currency shocks, recessions.

More than a decade ago, economist Dani Rodrik, then at Columbia University, studied the circumstances in which governments adopted free-trade policies. His findings were striking: “No significant case of trade reform in a developing country in the 1980s took place outside the context of a serious economic crisis.” The 1990s proved him right in dramatic fashion. In Russia, an economic meltdown set the stage for fire-sale privatizations. Next, the Asian crisis in 1997-98 cracked open the “Asian tigers” to a frenzy of foreign takeovers, a process the New York Times dubbed “the world’s biggest going-out-of-business sale.”

To be sure, desperate countries will generally do what it takes to get a bailout. An atmosphere of panic also frees the hands of politicians to quickly push through radical changes that would otherwise be too unpopular, such as privatization of essential services, weakening of worker protections and free-trade deals. In a crisis, debate and democratic process can be handily dismissed as unaffordable luxuries.

Do the free-market policies packaged as emergency cures actually fix the crises at hand? For the ideologues involved, that has mattered little. What matters is that, as a political tactic, disaster capitalism works. It was the late free-market economist Milton Friedman, writing in the preface to the 1982 reissue of his manifesto, “Capitalism and Freedom,” who articulated the strategy most succinctly. “Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

A decade later, John Williamson, a key advisor to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (and who coined the phrase “the Washington consensus”), went even further. He asked a conference of top-level policymakers “whether it could conceivably make sense to think of deliberately provoking a crisis so as to remove the political logjam to reform.”

Again and again, the Bush administration has seized on crises to break logjams blocking the more radical pieces of its economic agenda. First, a recession provided the excuse for sweeping tax cuts. Next, the “war on terror” ushered in an era of unprecedented military and homeland security privatization. After Hurricane Katrina, the administration handed out tax holidays, rolled back labor standards, closed public housing projects and helped turn New Orleans into a laboratory for charter schools — all in the name of disaster “reconstruction.”

Given this track record, Washington lobbyists had every reason to believe that the current recession fears would provoke a new round of corporate gift-giving. Yet it seems that the public is getting wise to the tactics of disaster capitalism. Sure, the proposed $150-billion economic stimulus package is little more than a dressed-up tax cut, including a new batch of “incentives” to business. But the Democrats nixed the more ambitious GOP attempt to leverage the crisis to lock in the Bush tax cuts and go after Social Security. For the time being, it seems that a crisis created by a dogged refusal to regulate markets will not be “fixed” by giving Wall Street more public money with which to gamble.

Yet while managing (barely) to hold the line, the House Democrats appear to have given up on extending unemployment benefits and increasing funding for food stamps and Medicaid as part of the stimulus package. More important, they are failing utterly to use the crisis to propose alternative solutions to a status quo marked by serial crises, whether environmental, social or economic.

The problem is not a lack of ideas “alive and available” — to borrow Friedman’s phrase. There are plenty available, from single-payer healthcare to legislating a living wage. Hundreds of thousands of jobs can be created by rebuilding the ailing public infrastructure and making it more friendly to public transit and renewable energy. Need start-up funds? Close the loophole that lets billionaire hedge fund managers pay 15% capital gains instead of 35% income tax, and adopt a long-proposed tax on international currency trading. The bonus? A less volatile, crisis-prone market.

The way we respond to crises is always highly political, a lesson progressives appear to have forgotten. There’s a historical irony to that: Crises have ushered in some of America’s great progressive policies. Most notably, after the dramatic market failure of 1929, the left was ready and waiting with its ideas — full employment, huge public works, mass union drives. The Social Security system that Moody’s is so eager to dismantle was a direct response to the Depression.

Every crisis is an opportunity; someone will exploit it. The question we face is this: Will the current turmoil become an excuse to transfer yet more public wealth into private hands, to wipe out the last vestiges of the welfare state, all in the name of economic growth? Or will this latest failure of unfettered markets be the catalyst that is needed to revive a spirit of public interest, to get serious about the pressing crises of our time, from gaping inequality to global warming to failing infrastructure?

The disaster capitalists have held the reins for three decades. The time has come, once again, for disaster populism.

Naomi Klein is the author of many books, including her most recent, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, which will be published in September.Visit Naomi’s website at www.naomiklein.org , or to learn more about her new book, visit www.shockdoctrine.com .

© 2008 The Los Angeles Times

It’s Time to Hold Democratic House Leaders in Contempt by Naomi Wolf

January 28, 2008

It’s Time to Hold Democratic House Leaders in Contempt by Naomi Wolf

Dandelion Salad

by Naomi Wolf
Commondreams.org
Huffington Post
Saturday, January 26, 2008

Enough is enough.

Like many of us, after having watched helplessly as the Bush administration trampled the Constitution and made a mockery of checks and balances over the course of five bitter years, I was hopeful when the American people elected a Democratic Congress in November of 2006. Finally, I imagined, we would have a whiff of legality and the hint of a restoration of the rule of law in the land. Perhaps we would even have congressional committees to oversee the administration’s subversions of the rule of law and investigate the wide range of abuses that it had perpetrated since 2001.

There has been a bit of movement — which is why the thousands of Americans I have met who are appalled at these abuses but feel powerless to raise their voices effectively should take heart, but not stop their fight. To some extent, these raised voices have yielded some action: Congress has in fact held numerous hearings on issues — ranging from torture to warrantless wiretapping — that had been taboo to contend with when the administration was heedlessly, and unopposed, using a hyped narrative of `the global war on terror’ to subdue American liberties. Most prominently, we got some of the bad guys out of town. Citizen-driven congressional investigations into the politicization of the Department of Justice, for example, spurred the resignations of many key Bush administration officials, including the mild-mannered gatekeeper of the first bolgia of Hell, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

And yet, where it counts most, Democratic leaders in Congress have completely abdicated their constitutional oversight role. What they are doing now reprises the worst failures of other self-paralyzed Parliaments in societies that were facing crackdowns on civil liberties and the rule of law, and their voluntary self-emasculation may go down in history as one of those turning points at which leaders cave shamefully to transformative pressure that leaves a country far less than its founded ideal. Through their actions, they are potentially causing irreparable harm to the institution of Congress itself.

At issue is the failure of White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers to comply with congressional subpoenas to testify about the 2006 firings of a handful of U.S. Attorneys. We now have an America in which Congress says, “We subpoena you.” And potential criminals say, “Yeah? F— off.”

As most people know, the Bush administration asserted executive privilege on behalf of Bolten and Miers and refused to allow them to comply with the subpoenas to testify before the House Judiciary Committee last July. It is widely understood that executive privilege only protects certain conversations and correspondences with the president and is not intended to be a blanket privilege — protecting possible wrongdoers against having to appear before Congress AT ALL.

By going far beyond specific exchanges between the president and other officials, the White House essentially asserted that Congress has no power over the executive branch and could not question executive branch officials about their activities. This is an affront to our Constitution. In the shootout of this executive power grab, it effectively leaves one branch of government fatally wounded on Main Street.

Guess what? In America, Congress is not supposed to be tied up and left for dead as potential criminals walk away with impunity. Within weeks, the few brave members of the House Judiciary Committee who were apparently still sentient and still aware of their role as Americans appropriately passed a criminal contempt resolution against both Bolten and Miers.

It was then in the hands of Democratic leaders in the House to bring the resolution to the floor for a vote.

Since then, the citizens of this High Noon scenario have been hiding under the bar stools as the black hats swagger through the nation’s abandoned thoroughfare, and chaparral rolls through the streets. Democratic leaders are hiding from the call of destiny and offering nothing but delays and excuses to avoid producing any semblance of cojones.

In July, they said there would be a vote in September. In September, they said there would be a vote in October. In October, they said a vote would be “more likely” in November. In December, it appeared as if there would be a vote in December – which was then changed to January. If this was my twelve-year-old justifying an unfinished school project, she would be grounded. If it is your congressional representatives justifying an advanced case of cowardice, they should be fired.

Then, less than two weeks ago, on January 14, the Washington Post reported, under a headline, “House Democrats Target Bolten, Miers,” that the House would likely take up the resolutions in the next “couple of weeks.” With this information coming from “Democratic leadership aides,” it appeared as if — Hallelujah! — the long wait for some semblance of justice and a faint breeze of courage might be over.

But two days ago, Politico reported that the votes on criminal contempt citations had been — Say it ain’t so! — “postponed” by House Democrats. Now they were not expected “for weeks.” Moreover, after “Democratic leadership aides” asserted in October that Congress “would be able to round up the 218 votes needed to push through the resolution from Democrats alone,” a Democratic “insider” was now saying, “When we have the votes, we’ll go ahead with this. Right now, the votes are just not there.”

So let me get this straight. The Democrats in Congress cannot even get their own members together to defend the Constitution against a supremely unpopular executive who has essentially spit in their faces, eaten their lunch and the nation’s, and publicly called them out as powerless. Not to mention the fact that they are setting a precedent for the future that any executive can emasculate any Congress and defy any subpoena after having committed possibly any crime. Still they are trembling under the barstools — summoning up, perhaps, the courage to crawl out fully prone and toss their untouched guns humbly at the feet of the posse.

Remember this: each and every member of Congress took an oath — and the oath was not to some abstract government, it was an oath TO YOU — to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Unlike many good people across the political spectrum who are appalled at this dismantling of the three-part system the founders put in place and the besmirching of the rule of law, Congressional Republicans have clearly decided to place their allegiance to the president and their party over their allegiance to the Constitution. This is bad enough; this is, in fact, treason. But the Democrats do not even have that party allegiance as an excuse for their treachery. They would be standing up for their party, the institution of Congress, and the Constitution by passing the contempt resolutions. What more will it take to get them to act?

Those who think — as Pelosi apparently does — that they may rock the boat through a contempt citation in a way that endangers a possible Democratic victory in September are badly misreading the public mood — as well as severely misreading the historical record. If you don’t punish those who break the law at this stage of a crackdown on liberty — through contempt citations, through the use of Congress’s jail cell for those who are found guilty of contempt, and/or through the investigations of a truly independent prosecutor — you are not going to have a transparent, accountable election in November. You will have set a benchmark for impunity and you will get greater and greater crimes committed in the certainty of impunity.

If you doubt the dangers of this, think of the Gulf of Hormuz threat a few weeks ago — oops, hoax. Because the press is actually asking questions, the Pentagon’s narrative of a vicious Iranian provocation was sidelined. But it is purely naive to believe that a White House that would ignore subpoenas and impose yet another false threat scenario on the American people will conduct a transparent election in the fall, especially if it can get away with murder — the murder of the rule of law — today.

Tell your representative to move forward with contempt. And if your representatives fail to act, the punishment should not just be removal from office in the next election; they should also be subject to investigations themselves — for abetting crimes against the Constitution.

Contempt is at issue, indeed.

Naomi Wolf is the author of The New York Times bestseller “The End of America” (Chelsea Green) and is the co-founder of the American Freedom Campaign.

© 2008 Huffington Post

Brattleboro to vote on arresting Bush, Cheney

January 28, 2008
Southern Vermont

Brattleboro to vote on arresting Bush, Cheney

January 26, 2008
BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro residents will vote at town meeting on whether President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney should be indicted and arrested for war crimes, perjury or obstruction of justice if they ever step foot in Vermont.

The Brattleboro Select Board voted 3-2 Friday to put the controversial item on the Town Meeting Day warning.

According to Town Clerk Annette Cappy, organizers of the Bush-Cheney issue gathered enough signatures, and it was up to the Select Board whether Brattleboro voters would consider the issue in March.

Cappy said residents will get to vote on the matter by paper balloting March 4.

Kurt Daims, 54, of Brattleboro, the organizer of the petition drive, said Friday the debate to get the issue on the ballot was a good one. Opposition to the vote focused on whether the town had any power to endorse the matter.

“It is an advisory thing,” said Daims, a retired prototype machinist and stay-at-home dad of three daughters.

So far, Vermont is the only state Bush hasn’t visited since he became president in 2001.

Daims said the most grievous crime committed by Bush and Cheney was perjury — lying to Congress and U.S. citizens about the basis of a war in Iraq.

He said the latest count showed a total of 600,000 people have died in the war.

Daims also said he believed Bush and Cheney were also guilty of espionage for spying on American people and obstruction of justice, for the politically generated firings of U.S. attorneys.

Voting to put the matter on the town ballot were Chairwoman Audrey Garfield and board members Richard Garrant and Dora Boubalis.

Voting against the idea were board members Richard DeGray and Stephen Steidle.

Daims said the names submitted to the town clerk’s office were the second wave of signatures the petition drive had to collect, because he had to rewrite the wording of the petition.

He said he gathered nearly 500 signatures in about three weeks, and he said most people he encountered were eager to sign it. He started the petition drive about three months ago.

“Everybody I talked to wanted Bush to go,” he said, noting that even members of the local police department supported the drive.

“This is exactly what the charter envisioned as a citizen initiative,” Daims said. “People want to express themselves and they want to say how they feel.”

He said the idea is spreading: Activists in Louisville, Ky., are spearheading a similar drive, and he said activists were also working in Montague, Mass., a Berkshires town.

The article asked the town attorney to “draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution and publish said indictments for consideration by other authorities.”

The article goes on to say the indictments would be the “law of the town of Brattleboro that the Brattleboro police … arrest and detain George Bush and Richard Cheney in Brattleboro, if they are not duly impeached …”

Daims said people in Brattleboro were willing to “think outside the box” and consider the issue.

Daims had no compunction in comparing Bush and Cheney with one of the most notorious people in history.

“If Hitler were still alive and walked through Brattleboro, I think the local police would arrest him for war crimes,” Daims said.

Contact Susan Smallheer at susan.smallheer@rutlandherald.com.

None Dare Call It Treason

January 28, 2008
None Dare Call It Treason
Who is stealing our nuclear secrets – and why are they being shielded by the authorities?
by Justin Raimondo

The Valerie Plame case is, by journalistic standards, ancient history, and naturally any follow-up on a once-important story is considered bad form. Yet there is an interesting – and rather scary – new twist to the narrative. It turns out that Scooter Libby and friends weren’t the first to “out” CIA agent Plame, whose alleged employer, a company known as Brewster Jennings, was really a cover for a CIA unit investigating nuclear proliferation issues.

The London Times reveals that a former top U.S. State Department official tipped off Turkish agents about Brewster Jennings’ CIA connection, according to Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator assigned to produce English-language transcripts of intercepted conversations of Turkish targets – in this case recordings of Turkish embassy officials and a top State Department official discussing, among other things, Brewster Jennings’ relationship to the CIA.

As the Times reports, the recordings were made “between the summer and autumn of 2001. At that time, foreign agents were actively attempting to acquire the West’s nuclear secrets and technology. Among the buyers were Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s intelligence agency, which was working with Abdul Qadeer Khan, the ‘father of the Islamic bomb,’ who in turn was selling nuclear technology to rogue states such as Libya.”

Plame and her unit were onto a black market nuclear network, run as a cooperative effort by the intelligence agencies of Pakistan, Turkey, and Israel. Accordingly, the Turks were lured into hiring Brewster-Jennings as “consultants,” but when the high U.S. official learned of this, says Edmonds, he “contacted one of the foreign targets and said … you need to stay away from Brewster Jennings because they are a cover for the government. The target … immediately followed up by calling several people to warn them about Brewster Jennings. At least one of them was at the ATC [American Turkish Council]. This person also called an ISI person to warn them.”

The Israeli connection is what’s interesting about this covert operation, because it involves U.S. citizens, high government officials who have been part of an ongoing investigation that dates back to at least 1999, the earliest year mentioned in the AIPAC indictment. As Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay of McClatchy News Service reported in 2004:

“Several U.S. officials and law-enforcement sources said yesterday that the scope of the FBI probe of Pentagon intelligence activities appeared to go well beyond the [Larry] Franklin matter.

“FBI agents have briefed top White House, Pentagon, and State Department officials on the probe. Based on those briefings, officials said, the bureau appears to be looking into other controversies that have roiled the Bush administration, some of which also touch [Douglas] Feith’s office.

“They include how the Iraqi National Congress, a former exile group backed by the Pentagon, allegedly received highly classified U.S. intelligence on Iran; the leaking of the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame to reporters; and the production of bogus documents suggesting that Iraq tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons from the African country of Niger. Bush repeated the Niger claim in making the case for war against Iraq.

“‘The whole ball of wax’ was how one U.S. official privy to the briefings described the inquiry.”

The whole ball of wax is a pretty tall order, but surely a major part of it is this nuclear black market business that Edmonds has clear evidence of. Edmonds has been subjected to an unprecedented gag order, imposed by a judge in the name of preserving “state secrets” – yet what is being preserved, apparently, aren’t state secrets at all but the knowledge that our nuclear secrets are being stolen and sold to the highest bidder with the active collaboration of high U.S. government officials. A whole gallery of top figures has been fingered by Edmonds, who hasn’t mentioned any names yet has managed to identify the guilty parties by posting their photos on a Web site associated with her case.

The lack of coverage of this amazing – and quite frightening – story in the U.S. media is easily explained: anything having to do with the activities of Israeli intelligence in this country is sure to sink beneath the radar, although the London Times and a good number of international news outlets have picked up the details. What isn’t so easily explained is the cover-up of criminal activities, including treason, by our very own Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Times, seeking corroboration of Edmonds’ story, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI, asking for a particular document:

“One of the documents relating to the case was marked 203A-WF-210023. Last week, however, the FBI responded to a freedom of information request for a file of exactly the same number by claiming that it did not exist. But The Sunday Times has obtained a document signed by an FBI official showing the existence of the file.”

Who is protecting what I called this treasonous camarilla from prosecution – and why have successive investigations into a number of activities by the same cabal of government officials been closed down, repeatedly, over the years?

As Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark point out in their new book, Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Global Nuclear Weapons Conspiracy, the network associated with Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan continues to operate in Europe, the Gulf, and Southeast Asia through a series of front companies. They cite a study produced by the BND, Germany’s intelligence agency, that found Pakistan is procuring nuclear-related materials and technology far in excess of its needs, leading experts to suspect they’re funneling their nuclear assets into a global black market operation. The chilling conclusion of the authors ought to send shivers down your spine:

“Most alarming was the finding that hundreds of thousands of components amassed by Khan had vanished since he had been put out of operation. In other words, Pakistan has continued to sell nuclear weapons technology (to clients known and unknown) even as Musharraf denies it – which means either that the sales are being carried out with his secret blessing or that he is no more in control of Pakistan’s nuclear program than he is of the bands of jihadis in his country.”

The Pakistanis think they are above reproach, at least publicly, by the U.S. authorities, and this strange immunity may have lethal consequences for us all:

“In 2001, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency, had proof that Osama bin Laden had received in person two retired Pakistani nuclear scientists at his secret HQ in Afghanistan. Both had become Islamist radicals in retirement.

“According to the son of one of them, bin Laden told them he had succeeded in acquiring highly enriched uranium from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and he wanted their help to turn it into a bomb. Amazed, they explained that while they could help with the science of fissile materials, they were not weapons designers.

“Soon afterwards, a secret army audit discovered evidence that 40 canisters of highly enriched uranium (HEU), the feedstuff for a nuclear bomb, were missing from the Kahuta enrichment labs outside Islamabad after A.Q. Khan retired. Dr. Muhammad Shafiq ur-Rehman, an insider who is the son of one of Khan’s former key aides, revealed: ‘They could only account for 80 out of a supposed 120 canisters.'”

Okay, so let’s see where this brings us: an underground network of spies and corrupt public officials is selling nuclear secrets worldwide, and al-Qaeda may very well have gotten its hands on enough lethal materials to make roughly 1,000 “dirty” bombs. Not only that, but the public officials and Washington insiders connected to this network are being protected from prosecution. The case files that document their treason have been withheld, and possibly destroyed.

Our brain-dead media, our kept pundits, and the “mainstream” outlets that determine if and when a news story is “legitimate” have systematically ignored the allegations of Sibel Edmonds, in spite of numerous endorsements of her credibility from two respected U.S. senators, the FBI’s Office of the Inspector General, and numerous current and former FBI agents who share her frustration with the shameless cover-up of this important case. It is absolutely outrageous that not a single major news organization in the U.S. has bothered to examine the charges made by Edmonds – especially when it is known that Islamist groups are still planning attacks on Western targets.

None Dare Call It Treason was the title of a ubiquitous right-wing screed of the 1960s, remembered more for its high camp value than for anything the author had to say, but I’ve always wanted to use it as the title of a column. Now that I’ve managed to do it, it doesn’t seem half as funny anymore.

Is it really time to consider moving to, say, a Pacific atoll and waiting out the catastrophe looming just down the road a bit? I never thought I’d say that, being temperamentally and ideologically opposed to “dropping out,” but one wonders, in the face of such a massive cover-up of this appalling danger to our immediate safety, if that isn’t the only alternative.

“We Can’t Afford to Let Them Spill the Beans” Edmonds on Grossman by Gary Leupp

January 28, 2008

“We Can’t Afford to Let Them Spill the Beans” Edmonds on Grossman by Gary Leupp

Dandelion Salad

by Gary Leupp
Dissident Voice
January 28th, 2008
Sibel Edmonds on Marc Grossman

I am not one to easily embrace conspiracy theories, and in particular have found the idea that 9-11 was somehow an inside job too incredible for serious consideration. On the other hand, there are some very fishy aspects to some officials’ behavior pertaining to the attacks. Justin Raimondo has made a very good case for the fact that Mossad agents posing as “Israeli art students” were tracking al-Qaeda operatives in the U.S. before 9/11.

Over 120 Israelis were detained after 9/11, some failing polygraph tests when asked about their involvement in intelligence gathering. But they were not held or charged with any illegal activity but rather deported. As former FBI translator and whistleblower Sibel Edmonds has revealed, there was a curious failure of the government before 9/11 to act upon intelligence pertaining to an al-Qaeda attack. Most importantly Edmonds, defying the gag order that former Attorney General Ashcroft imposed on her in 2002, is implicating Marc Grossman, formerly the number three man in the State Department, in efforts to provide US nuclear secrets to Pakistan and Israel. She suggests this was done through Turkish and Pakistani contacts, including the former head of Pakistan’s ISI who funneled funds to Mohamed Atta! Now there’s a conspiracy for you.

Edmonds claims that during her time at the FBI (September 20, 2001 to March 22, 2002) she discovered that intelligence material had been deliberately allowed to accumulate without translation; that inept translators were retained and promoted; and that evidence for traffic in nuclear materials was ignored. More shockingly, she charges that Grossman arranged for Turkish and Israeli Ph.D. students to acquire security clearances to Los Alamos and other nuclear facilities; and that nuclear secrets they acquired were transmitted to Pakistan and to Abdul Qadeer Khan, the “father of the Islamic bomb,” who in turn was selling nuclear technology to Libya and other nations.

She links Grossman to the former Pakistani military intelligence chief Mahmoud Ahmad, a patron of the Taliban, who reportedly arranged for a payment of $100,000 to 9/11 ringleader Atta via Pakistani terrorist Saeed Sheikh before the attacks. She suggests that he warned Pakistani and Turkish contacts against dealings with the Brewster Jennings Corp., the CIA front company that Valerie Plame was involved in as part of an effort to infiltrate a nuclear smuggling ring. All very heady stuff, published this month in The Times of London (and largely ignored by the U.S. media).

She does not identify Grossman by name in the Times article, but she has in the past, and former CIA officer Philip Giraldi does so in an extremely interesting article in the American Conservative. From that and many other sources, I come up with the timeline that appears below.

But first, some background on Grossman. A graduate of UC Santa Barbara and the London School of Economics, he was a career Foreign Service officer from 1976 when he began to serve at the US embassy in Pakistan. He continued in that post to 1983, when he became the Deputy Director of the Private Office of Lord Carrington, the Secretary General of NATO. From 1989 to 1992 he was Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Turkey, and from 1994 to 1997, US Ambassador to Turkey. As ambassador he strongly supported massive arms deals between the US and Ankara.

Thereafter he was Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, responsible for over 4,000 State Department employees posted in 50 sites abroad with a program budget of $1.2 billion to 2000. In 1999 he played a leading role in orchestrating NATO’s 50th anniversary Summit in Washington, and helped direct US participation in NATO’s military campaign in Kosovo that same year. As Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from the beginning of George W. Bush’s administration to January 2005, he played a bit role in the Plame Affair, informing “Scooter” Libby of Plame’s CIA affiliation.

Grossman is close to the American Turkish Council (ATC) founded in 1994 as a sister organization to the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC). Its founders include neoconservatives involved in the Israel-Turkey relationship, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, as well as Henry Kissinger, Brent Snowcroft and former congressman Stephen Solarz. (Perle and Feith had earlier been registered lobbyists for Turkey through Feith’s company, International Advisors Inc. Perle was at one point making $600,000 per year from such activity). Edmonds says this is “an association in name and in charter only; the reality is that it and other affiliated associations are the US government, lobbyists, foreign agents, and Military Industrial Complex.” (M. Christine Vick of Grossman’s Cohen Group serves on the Board of Advisors.) Grossman is also close to the American Turkish Association (ATA), and regularly speaks at its events.

Both ATA and ATC have been targets of FBI investigations because of their suspected ties with drug smuggling, but Edmonds claims she heard wiretaps connecting ATC with other illegal activities, some related to 9/11. The CIA has investigated it in connection with the smuggling of nuclear secrets and material. Valerie Plame and the CIA front group Brewster Jennings were monitoring it when Bush administration officials leaked her identity in July 2003. Edmonds, Giraldi, and researchers Christopher Deliso and Luke Ryland accuse him of suspiciously enriching himself while in government service. Nevertheless he was awarded the Foreign Service’s highest rank when President Bush appointed him to the rank of Career Ambassador in 2004, and received Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award the following year.

A dual Israeli-American national, Grossman has promoted the neocon agenda of forcing “regime change” in the Middle East. “[T]he time has come now,” he declared on the eve of the Iraq invasion, “to make a stand against this kind of connection between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. And we think Iraq is a place to make that stand first . . . the great threat today is the nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.” But he has not been as conspicuous a war advocate as Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Libby, Bolton, and some others. (Perle and Feith, one should note, were also deeply involved in lobbying activities on behalf of Turkey as well as Israel in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Edelman was ambassador to Turkey 2003-05 where, chagrined by the Turkish failure to enthusiastically support the US occupation of Iraq, he deeply offended his hosts.) Grossman seems less an ideologue driven to make the world safer for Israel than a corrupt, amoral, self-aggrandizing opportunist. Anyway, here is an incomplete chronology of his alleged wrongdoing, along with other relevant details.

2001

As newly appointed Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Grossman assists Turkish, Israeli and other moles — mainly Ph.D. students — godfathering visa and arranging for security clearances to work in sensitive research facilities, including the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory in New Mexico. FBI taps his phone 2001-2, finds he is receiving bribes (one for $15,000). Edmonds states: “I heard at least three transactions like this over a period of 2½ years. There are almost certainly more.”

Between August and September: Grossman warns his Turkish associates seeking to acquire nuclear secrets that Brewster Jennings (for whom CIA agent Valerie Plame works) is a CIA front.

Sept. 4: Gen. Mahmoud Ahmad, the chief of Pakistan ’s intelligence service (ISI) arrives in US, meets with Grossman and other U.S. officials.

Sept. 10: Report by Amir Mateen in Pakistani newspaper Dawn ( Karachi ): “[Ahmad] also held long parleys with unspecified officials at the White House and the Pentagon. But the most important meeting was with Mark Grossman, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. US sources would not furnish any details beyond saying that the two discussed ‘matters of mutual interests.’”

Sept. 11: Gen. Ahmad is having breakfast in Washington with Congressman Porter Goss (R-Fla.) and Senator Bob Graham (D) when attacks occur.

(Goss had had 10 years in clandestine operations in CIA and later — September 22, 2003-May 5, 2006 — heads the organization. Graham and Goss later are the co-chairs of the joint House-Senate investigation that proclaimed there was “no smoking gun” as far as President George W. Bush having any advance knowledge of September 11.)

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, FBI arrests people suspected of being involved with the attacks — including four Turkish and Pakistani associates of key targets of FBI’s counterintelligence operations. Sibel heard the targets tell Grossman: “We need to get them out of the U.S. because we can’t afford for them to spill the beans.” Grossman facilitates their release from jail and suspects immediately leave US without further investigation or interrogation.

Sept. 12-13: Meetings between Ahmad and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Armitage threatens to bomb Pakistan “back to the Stone Age” unless it cooperates in US attack on Afghanistan. Ahmad also meets Secretary of State Colin Powell. Agreement on Pakistan’s collaboration is secured.

Sept. 20: Sibel Edmonds, a 32-year-old Turkish-American, hired as a translator by the FBI.

According to Edmonds, she overheard an agent on a 2000 wiretap discussing with Saudi businessmen in Detroit “nuclear information that had been stolen from an air force base in Alabama,” and stating: “We have a package and we’re going to sell it for $250,000.” She also claims she listened to recordings of a high official (Grossman) receiving bribes from Turkish officials.

Early October: Indian intelligence reports that Gen. Ahmad had in summer of 2001 ordered Saeed Sheikh (convicted of the kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl) to wire US$100,000 from Dubai to one of hijacker Mohamed Atta’s two bank accounts in Florida. FBI confirms story, reported on ABC news.

Oct. 7: US-led Coalition begins air strikes against Taliban.

Oct. 8: Gen. Ahmad, Taliban supporter and an opponent of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, forced to retire from his post as director-general of ISI.

Late Oct.: Pakistani government arrests three Pakistani nuclear scientists, all with close ties to Khan, for their suspected connections with the Taliban.

2002

Early March: Edmonds sends faxes to Senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy on the Judiciary Committee, is called in for polygraph test; Department of Justice inspector general’s report states “she was not deceptive in her answers.”

March: Grossman keynote speaker at ATC conference.

March 22: Edmunds fired, allegedly for shoddy work, security breaches.

Oct. 27: Edmonds appears on CBS’ 60 Minutes program.

Dec: Grossman visits Turkey, approves $3 billion US aid to Turkey for the Iraq Cooperation deal.

2003

March 3: In interview for Dutch television, Grossman says, “[T]he time has come now to make a stand against this kind of connection between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. And we think Iraq is a place to make that stand first . . . the great threat today is the nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.”

May 29: Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff “Scooter” Libby asks Grossman for information about news report about the secret envoy sent by the CIA to Africa in 2002. Grossman requests a classified memo from Carl Ford, the director of the State Department’s intelligence bureau, and later orally briefs Libby on its contents.

Mid-June: Powell and his deputy secretary Richard Armitage may have received a copy of the Grossman memo.

June 10: Grossman asks the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) for a briefing on the Niger uranium issue, and specifically the State Department’s opposition to the continuing White House view that Iraq had tried to buy yellow cake. The resulting memo is dated the same day, and drawn from notes on the February 19 meeting at the CIA on the Wilson mission and other sources. Memo is classified “Top Secret,” and contains in one paragraph, separately marked “(S/NF)” for “Secret/No dissemination to foreign governments or intelligence agencies,” two sentences describing in passing Valerie “Wilson’s” identity as a CIA operative and her role in the inception of the Wilson trip to Niger. This June 10 memo reportedly does not use her maiden name Plame.

June 17-July 9: Senate Judiciary Committee holds unclassified hearings on Edmunds’ allegations.

June 19: letter from Senior Republican Senator, Charles Grassley, and Senior Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy to Inspector General Glenn A. Fine concerning Edmonds’ allegations.

July 14: Robert Novak reveals Plame’s CIA identity.

July 22: Edmonds files suit against the Department of Justice, the FBI, and several high-level officials, alleging that she was wrongfully terminated from the FBI in retaliation for reporting criminal activities committed by government employees.

Aug. 13: letter from two senators to Attorney General Ashcroft concerning Sibel Edmonds’ allegations.

Aug. 15: 600 victims of the 9/11 attacks file suit (Burnett v. Al Baraka Investment & Dev. Corp.), request from Edmonds deposition providing evidence for US government foreknowledge of 9-11 attacks.

Sept. 22: Goss made CIA Director (resigns May 5, 2006).

Oct. 18, 2002: Attorney General John Ashcroft invokes the State Secrets Privilege (requested not by Justice Department but by State department) in order to prevent disclosure of the nature of Edmonds’ work on the grounds that it would endanger national security, and asked that her wrongful termination suit be dismissed, in effect placing Edmonds under a gag order.

Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Ca.) expresses outrage at gag order, promises that a Democratic majority in Congress would conduct hearings. (This has not been done.)

Oct. 28: Letter from two senators to FBI Director Robert Mueller concerning Sibel Edmonds’ allegations.

Dec. 11, 2003, Attorney General Ashcroft again invoking the State Secrets Privilege, files a motion calling for Edmonds’ deposition in Burnett v. Al Baraka case be suppressed and for the entire case to be dismissed. The judge, seeking more information, orders government to produce any unclassified material relating to the case. In response, Ashcroft submits further statements to justify the use of the State Secrets Privilege.

Dec: Grossman back in Turkey to approve Turkey ’s eligibility to participate in tenders for Iraq’s reconstruction.

2004

Grossman achieves Foreign Service’s highest rank when President Bush appoints him to rank of Career Ambassador.

Patrick Leahy calls for investigation; Sen. Orrin Hatch, Republican Chairman of the Senate, blocks it.

May 13: Ashcroft retroactively classifies all material that had been provided to Senate Judiciary Committee in 2000 relating to Edmond’s lawsuit, as well as the senators’ letters that had already been posted on-line by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

June 23: POGO files lawsuit against Justice Department for classifying material it had published; Justice Department fails to get the case dismissed.

July 6: Edmonds suit dismissed on state secrets grounds.

July: Edmonds files appeal. On same day, Inspector General releases unclassified summary of a highly classified report on an investigation that had concluded “that many of her allegations were supported, that the FBI did not take them seriously enough, and that her allegations were, in fact, the most significant factor in the FBI’s decision to terminate her services. . . Rather than investigate Edmonds’ allegations vigorously and thoroughly, the FBI concluded that she was a disruption and terminated her contract.”

August: Edmonds founds the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC) to address US security weaknesses.

December: Grossman the key speaker at an ATC Conference held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

2005

Grossman receives Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award.

January: Grossman quits his government job. Eric Edelman, another former ambassador to Turkey, takes job of Under Secretary of Defence for Policy.

January: Pakistani nuclear engineer A.Q. Khan confesses to having been involved in a clandestine international network of nuclear weapons technology proliferation from Pakistan to Libya, Iran and North Korea.

Feb. 5: Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf announces he has pardoned Khan. US response is mild.

March: Grossman made vice-chairman of Cohen Group.

Feb. 18: Justice Department under new attorney general backs away from claim that documents posted by POGO were classified.

April 21: In the hours before the hearing of her appeal, three judges issued a ruling that barred all reporters and the public from the courtroom. During the proceedings, Edmonds was not allowed into the courtroom for the hearing.

May 6: Edmonds’ case dismissed, no reason provided, no opinion cited.

May 14: In open letter, Edmonds states the governments wants to silence here to “protect certain diplomatic relations” and to “protect certain U.S. foreign business relations.” Says the “foreign relations” mentioned in the gag order “are not in the interest of, or of benefit to, the majority of Americans, but instead serve and protect a small minority.”

June 20: Edmonds writes: “(In) April 2001, a long-term FBI informant/asset who had been providing the bureau with information since 1990, provided two FBI agents and a translator with specific information regarding a terrorist attack being planned by Osama Bin Laden. For almost four years since September 11, officials refused to admit to having specific information regarding the terrorists’ plans to attack the United States. The Phoenix Memo, received months prior to the 9/11 attacks, specifically warned FBI HQ of pilot training and their possible link to terrorist activities against the US. Four months prior to the terrorist attacks the Iranian asset provided the FBI with specific information regarding the ‘use of airplanes’, ‘major US cities as targets’, and ‘Osama Bin Laden issuing the order.’ Coleen Rowley likewise reported that specific information had been provided to FBI HQ.”

July 20: Unidentified as a “retired state department official” Grossman tells AP that a classified State Department memo disputed the legitimacy of administration claims that Iraq sought to acquire uranium from Niger, also contained a few lines about Plame Wilson’s CIA employment, marked as secret.

August 5: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) petitioned for the Supreme Court of the United States to review the lower courts’ application of the State Secret Privilege in both lawsuits. The ACLU claims that the courts conflated the State Secrets Privilege and the Totten rule.

Sept. 28: Washington Post cites unnamed former administration source (Grossman) as stating that the outing of Plame was “Clearly . . . meant purely and simply for revenge.”

Oct. 28: In Patrick Fitzgerald’s indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Grossman is the Under Secretary of State mentioned as giving information about Plame to Libby.

November: Grossman attends lavish Turkish Ottoman Dinner Gala, receives award from Turkish lobby group, the Assembly of American Turkish Association (ATAA) in Chicago.

Nov. 28: the Supreme Court declined to review the decisions made in the Edmonds case.

2006

March: Grossman the key speaker at the ATC annual conference.

June: Grossman key speaker at MERIA Conference, discussing Turkey’s importance to US and Israel.

Sept. 2006: a documentary about Sibel Edmonds’ case called Kill The Messenger (”Une Femme à Abattre”) premiers in France. (watch film here)

2007

January 24: Grossman first to testify in Libby trial. Says he informed Libby of Plame’s involvement “in about 30 seconds of conversation” in June 2003.

November: Grossman subpoenaed by defense in AIPAC trial.

Nov. 26: Grossman, now Vice Chairman of the consulting firm the Cohen Group, attends a major Security Conference in Riga, Latvia.

2008

January: Edmonds posts, without comment, photos of current and former officials and Turkish associates on website: Richard Perle, Eric Edelman, Marc Grossman, Brent Snowcroft, Larry Franklin, Ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Roy Blunt (R-Mo), Dan Burton (R-Ind.), Tom Lanton (D-Ca.), Bob Livingston (ex-House Speaker, R-La.), Stephen Solarz (D-NY), Graham Fulle (RAND), David Makovsky (WINEP), Martin Markovsky (WINEP), Yusuf Turani (president in exile of Turkmenistan), Prof. Sabri Sayari (Columbia University, WINEP), Mehmet Eymur (former head of Turkish counter-terrorism).

Jan. 6: The Times of London carries story, “For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets.” States that a high official “was aiding foreign operatives against US interests by passing them highly classified information, not only from the State Department but also from the Pentagon, in exchange for money, position and political objectives.” Claims that the FBI was also gathering evidence against senior Pentagon officials — including household names — who were aiding foreign agents.

“If you made public all the information that the FBI have on this case, you will see very high-level people going through criminal trials.”

Jan. 22: White House issues statement declaring its intention to approve sale of nuclear secrets to Turkey; Joshua Frank writes on January 25, “It appears the White House has been spooked by Edmonds and hopes to absolve the US officials allegedly involved in the illegal sale of nuclear technology to private Turkish ‘entities’.” Frank identifies Grossman as one of these officials.

* * * * *

Edmonds is tirelessly and fearlessly campaigning for Congressman Waxman, now chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to hold hearings. She says that FBI agents and even former Turkish intelligence officials are willing and able to validate her charges. But the congressman hesitates, perhaps fearing the storm of indignation that explosive evidence will produce in a country sick of its politicians, the lying neocons, and the war. Should they discover that, while disseminating disinformation about foreign nukes in order to fearmonger and build support for aggressive war, some of these officials were actually peddling nuclear secrets — committing treason while receiving honors for their patriotic service — the response could be explosive.

The Office of Special Plans under Abram Shulsky and Douglas Feith cherry-picked the intelligence vetted through the New York Times to terrify people into supporting an attack on Iraq. Democratic leaders have in the past urged an investigation of that spooky office, but furnished the opportunity since November 2006, they have declined to hold hearings. The Italian parliament conducted a study of the Niger uranium hoax, fingering neocon Michael Ledeen as a key suspect in forging documents designed to provide a casus belli before the Iran attack. Congress does nothing to follow up. In effect they are saying that the administration has a right to lie to the people. The presidential pardon granted Libby is a clear statement that it’s okay to punish whistleblowers like Joseph Wilson. The Supreme Court refuses to hear Edmonds’ appeal. It seems that all three branches of government compete to coddle the most unscrupulous and lawless officials, while marginalizing or punishing honest citizens who expose the rot.

The publication of the National Intelligence Estimate undercutting the administration’s case for attacking Iran indicates that there are in the US intelligence community persons alarmed by the administration’s lies and efforts to justify more aggression based on lies. It enrages the neocons who, with Norman Podhoretz in the lead, have been praying for Bush to bomb Iran. The arrest and conviction of Feith subordinate Larry Franklin shows that within the FBI there are forces disturbed at the close connections between the neocons, Israeli intelligence, and the Israel lobby and are willing to take action against lawbreaking. But Feith and Perle have both been investigated before, Perle for discussing classified information with Israeli Embassy staff in an FBI-monitored phone call in Washington in 1970. But the cases dropped for apparent political reasons. Perhaps the Grossman story will gain some traction. Maybe it will prove egregious enough that the tide will turn. Maybe Bush’s last year of office will see the neocons’ thorough exposure, humiliation and defeat.

Or maybe Waxman, Rep. Conyers and others in positions to honestly confront this most mendacious of administrations will continue to dither, feeding the assumption of the most vicious, cynical and corrupt that they are indeed above the law. And earning the contempt of those naïve enough to expect serious congressional oversight of a rogue regime.

Gary Leupp is a Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu. Read other articles by Gary.

Power to the (Palestinian) People!

January 26, 2008

Power to the (Palestinian) People!

By Jeff Halper
Source: MRZine

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The people of Palestine have done it again, taking their own fate in their hands after being let down by their own “moderate” political leadership and, indeed, the entire international community in their struggle for freedom.  Early this morning they simply blew up the wall separating Gaza from Egypt, breaking a siege imposed on them by an Arab government in collaboration with Israel.

 

We, the peoples of the world, should take great pride and encouragement in this quintessentially civil society refusal to accept subjugation, to abandon their fate to governments, including their own, for whom the lives of ordinary people are simply grist for their political charades — Annapolis and its subsequent “peace process” being but the last cynical expression.  For the Palestinians represent far more than just themselves.  Their refusal to submit to the dictates of governments, or to governments’ lack of interest in the well-being of people in general, reflects the desire of billions of oppressed people for identity, freedom, a decent life and actualization of their collective and individual rights and potentials.  Most of the oppressed, the “wretched of the earth” as Franz Fanon called them a half-century ago, are too preoccupied with the daunting daily struggle for survival to organize and resist.  Others do resist in a myriad of ways, but are most often repressed by their own political and economic “leaders,” disappearing anonymously from view.  In a few cases they have managed to mount effective resistance to oppression, even to prevail — though the billions spent on “counterinsurgency” warfare by the US, Europe, Russia, Israel and many “developing” nations augur ill for peoples attempting to overthrow oppressive regimes.

 

In this the Palestinians stand at the forefront, in the front lines of peoples’ insistence everywhere that their rights, well-being and fundamental values as human beings be respected by governments.  And they do so (and I write this as an Israeli with great sorrow and shame) against one of the world’s strongest and most ruthless military powers — a power that has dispossessed them from 85% of their land, which is trying to transform its occupation into a permanent regime of apartheid, which has spent decades impoverishing and disenfranchising them; the fourth largest nuclear power which nevertheless casts itself as the victim.  Not only have the Palestinians experienced the dehumanization all oppressed and colonized peoples experience, not only have they been made into the embodiment of the rich and powerful’s greatest fear, evil “terrorists” who may tear down their privileged “civilization,” but they have been turned into guinea pigs.  Israel is able to gain an edge in the counterinsurgency industry and win entree into the heart of the American military/hi tech complex by turning the Occupied Territories into a laboratory for the development of fiendish weaponry and tactics intended for use against people.

 

And yet the Palestinian people — and in particular those who remain sumud, steadfast, in Palestine — continue not only to resist but to surprise and confound its would-be Israeli master at every turn.  Despite unlimited control, a complete monopoly over the use of force, utter callousness and a vaunted Shin Beit, Israel’s military intelligence, Palestinians vote as they want, resist, carry on their daily lives with dignity — and blow huge holes in the walls and policies constructed in order to imprison and defeat them.

 

All this is not on the minds of those desperate people who surged into Egypt today.  They may not have the “Big Picture.”  Yet they deserve the respect and gratefulness of every person who cherishes a better world based on human rights and dignity, a world that is inclusive.  As an Israeli Jew, I have been saddened and mortified that my own people, after all they have experienced, cannot see what they are doing to others.  But on a larger scale, not as an Israeli Jew but as a human being, I take heart in the Palestinians’ active refusal to be ground under a global system that is producing unimaginable wealth and power for a few at the expense of the growing ranks of the wretched.

 

I am not a Palestinian; I am not one of the oppressed.  I only hope I can use my privilege in an effective way in order to redeem the gift the people of Gaza have given all of us: the realization that the people do have power and can prevail even in the face of overwhelming power.  We may each express our responsibility towards the people of Gaza in whatever way most suits us, but as the privileged we must do something.  We owe the Palestinians and the Palestinians writ large at least that.

 

Jeff Halper is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).

As the World Watches the Crisis in Gaza, Gaza Helps Itself

January 26, 2008

As the World Watches the Crisis in Gaza, Gaza Helps Itself

While the crisis in Gaza may dominate the headlines these days, the broader context from which it has emerged is sorely lacking. This is rather unsurprising, given the mainstream media’s proclivity for fragmented, sensationalist, profit-oriented coverage that serves the corporate interest. Fortunately, in venues like this one, there is room for a deeper exploration of the facts.
To begin, it is worth recalling that the Gaza Strip is an area of some 360 square kilometers, whose population before the 1948 war was only 80,000 people. In the months prior to, during and after the war, this population was joined by 200,000 Palestinian refugees from the Jaffa and Beersheva districts of British Mandate Palestine, who were forcibly expelled or fled from their homes in fear of the fighting. Most of the homes and villages from which they hailed were systematically destroyed by the military forces of the newly proclaimed Israeli state, and Gaza itself fell under de facto Egyptian administration until its occupation by Israel in the 1967 war.

Though international laws and conventions proclaim the right of refugees to leave and return to their homeland to be a basic human right, the applicability of this right to the Palestinian refugees in Gaza (and elsewhere) has been consistently rejected by the Israeli government. Accordingly, descendants of the first generation of refugees denied their right to return are registered as refugees by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), for to deny subsequent generations this status would be to reward Israeli intransigence by making the refugee problem disappear with the death of its first victims.

Thus, three-quarters of the 1.4 million people living in Gaza are registered refugees who receive basic humanitarian assistance from UNRWA, and they represent 22.42% of the total number of Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA. About half of Gaza’s refugee population (478,272) lives in eight refugee camps – Jabalia, Rafah, Beach, Nuseirat, Khan Younis, Bureij, Maghazi, and Deir al-Balah – whose population densities are among the highest in the world. The Beach camp in Gaza, for example, houses 80,688 refugees in an area of less than one square kilometer.1

The Israeli towns regularly targeted by the Qassam rockets of Palestinian militants have been built upon the lands in which their parents, grand-parents or great-grandparents once lived. Not a single article in the mainstream media on the situation in Gaza has mentioned this rather salient fact, and most reports have also failed to recall that Gaza remains under Israeli occupation. While Jewish-only settlements in Gaza were dismantled under Ariel Sharon’s 2005 disengagement plan, Gaza remains under Israeli control and is regularly subjected to Israeli military incursions. Of the over 1,100 Palestinians that have been killed by Israeli security forces since the August 2005 disengagement, the majority were residents of Gaza. Over the same period, a total of 28 Israelis were killed in attacks by Palestinian militants.2

Furthermore, while the Israeli government insists that its military manouevers and collective punishment of the population of Gaza is merely a response to Qassam rocket fire, the total number of civilians killed in such attacks between June 2004 and July 2006 was fourteen – five of whom were Palestinians, and one a migrant labourer from China. Operation Summer Rain (26 June – 24 July 2006), the codename for the Israeli military incursion into Gaza which the government claimed was launched to stop the Qassams, resulted in the death of 126 Palestinians, including at least 63 civilians, 29 of whom were under the age of 18.3

In this broader context, it is both hypocritical and highly misleading for mainstream news organizations to use terms like “Israeli response” or “Israeli retaliation” to characterize Israel’s attacks on Gaza. Qassam rocket fire is just one of many Palestinian responses to Israel’s occupation of Gaza and its continuing refusal to acknowledge the rights of Palestinians to return, self-determination and statehood. In the first forty-five years after their dispossession in 1948, Palestinians centered their resistance around the model of a popular uprising, using mass demonstrations, general strikes, appeals to the international community, and guerrilla operations against military targets to restore their lost rights. Indeed, the first intifada made up primarily of stone-throwing youths who were regularly gunned down by Israeli forces began in the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza. It was only when these tactics failed to produce the desired results that suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians began, the first of which was launched in April of 1993. After the construction of the 60 kilometre long perimeter fence which turned Gaza into the largest prison for refugees on earth, militants began constructing the homemade Qassam missiles, the first successful test launch being in 2001. While it is deeply regrettable that Israeli civilians have been injured, killed and traumatized by Qassam attacks and suicide bombings for 15 and 7 years respectively, the civilian population of Gaza has endured injuries, killings, and trauma at the hands of successive Israeli governments for 60 years now. Their rights to security and self-determination are certainly no less than those of the Israelis who settled on their former lands. They are not children of a lesser God, though the way the media reports on the situation, it is not difficult to see why some people think that they are.

Intensive media coverage of the current crisis in Gaza was sparked by its plunge into darkness on 20 January 2007. In what has become a predictable pattern of blame deflection for propaganda purposes, the Israelis once again blamed Hamas for manufacturing the current crisis. Such claims beggar belief however, given that among the proposals for economic sanctions on Gaza put forward by the Vilnai Committee and adopted by the Israeli Cabinet in October of last year, was a call for electricity sanctions. While the electricity sanctions proposal was halted by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz pending further domestic legal review, Israel nevertheless began drastically limiting fuel and foodstuff supplies to Gaza upon implementation of the sanctions regime on 28 October 2007.4

The only power plant located in Gaza relies on industrial gasoline to operate. This plant was built to reduce Gaza’s reliance on electricity supplies from the Israeli grid and it provided 140 megawatts (or two-thirds of Gaza’s electricity needs) when it came into full operation in 2004. It had, however, been running at a reduced capacity even before the current crisis due to an Israeli aerial attack which destroyed the plant at the beginning of Operation Summer Rain. The plant was partially rebuilt, likely with monies received as part of the $48 million “political risk” insurance policy it held with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, “an arm of the US government that provides American businesses with financing abroad and promotes US interests in emerging markets.” 5 In other words, American citizens, whose taxes are regularly used to provide Israel with its military arsenal, ended up subsiding Israel’s destructive act twice over.

A Hamas official told Al-Jazeera on 21 January that the plant was operating at a capacity of 80 megawatts prior to its 20 January closure which he ascribed to the total lack of fuel for operations. He also claimed that the one-off emergency shipment of fuel from the EU which Israel would permit to enter Gaza on 22 January would allow the plant to operate for two days at a reduced capacity of 60 megawatts. Without further shipments however, the plant will once again have to be closed, since there are no reserves left to fall back on. An UNRWA official on Al-Jazeera English confirmed that he had visited the plant and that the fuel tanks were indeed empty. Thus, Israeli equivocations designed to avoid responsibility for the humanitarian crisis its policies have produced are once again exposed as out of touch with reality.

The lack of electricity in Gaza at the height of a bitterly cold Middle Eastern winter means not only that many families do not have the power required to heat and light their homes, but also that the water supply, which runs on electrical pumps, is affected. As a result of the two day blackout affecting most of the northern Gaza Strip (some 700,000 people), sewers backed up flooding the streets of densely populated refugee camps, producing conditions ripe for the outbreak of an epidemic.

Driven by the overall desperate conditions, on 22 January, a group made up primarily of women gathered at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, demanding the gate be opened so as to access food, medicine and other supplies denied to them by the siege. They managed to break through the door briefly before being beaten back by Egyptian police. This scene of Egyptian men beating Palestinian women further enraged much of the Arab world who had already taken to the streets to demand action on the part of their governments whose apparent allegiances to Uncle Sam, seem to outstrip that to their own peoples.

As the international community convened to hem and haw over how to address the crisis, niggling over the wording of a proposed Security Council resolution –  eventually dropped in favour of a Presidential statement due to the opposition of the United States to the issuing of any resolution at all – Gazans once again took their destiny into their own hands.

On the night of 22nd masked militants detonated landmines at the base of the wall between Egypt and Gaza and then bulldozed sections to allow people to pass through. The United Nations reported that 350,000 people from Gaza flocked into Egypt on the 23rd to buy food, cigarettes, propane, and other items that had been unavailable to them for months. President Mubarak of Egypt, who arguably had the power to open the crossing the day previous, claimed he “decided” to let the people pass through for humanitarian reasons. Without the initiative taken by the militants and the people however, it is highly unlikely that he would have opened the crossing of his own accord. Between the teeming mass of humanity and growing domestic protests, he had little choice but to defer to popular sentiment, disappointing his American and Israeli benefactors.

As the international community continues to fail in holding Israel accountable for sixty years of crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian people, the people themselves continue to show enormous resilience and perseverance against the most incredible of odds. The idea floated by Bush and Olmert at Annapolis that Palestinians should give up their right to return to places now located within Israel because Israel’s right to retain its identity as a Jewish state is, in their eyes, greater than the rights of millions of refugees to exercise the most basic of human rights is beyond insulting, and is further rejected by the vast majority of the refugees it would affect. Without recognition and implementation of this right, the depth of the resentment built up in generation after generation of refugees will not lessen with time, despite the prognostications of Ben-Gurion that, “The old will die and the young will forget”. Many of the old have died, but the young, some of whom are now lobbing Qassams at Israel, have certainly not forgotten.

Without a radical shift in thinking, there will be many more Qassams and perhaps much worse in Israel’s near future. Wishful thinking will not make the problem go away. To right all wrongs, Israel must accept that a narrowly defined ethnic state made up largely of European settlers at the expense of its indigenous inhabitants cannot hold off the “barbarians at the gate” forever. The full day of reckoning will arrive. It is only a matter of time before the walls in and around the West Bank and Gaza that separate Palestinians from one another (and from their Palestinian brethren that are citizens of Israel) meet the same fate as the wall in Rafah. If Israelis hope to have any kind of future in the region, it behooves them to act pre-emptively to rectify all outstanding injustices – this time, not with might, but for what is right.

1 Gaza refugee camp profiles. UNRWA. Figures as of December 31, 2006. See http://www.un.org/unrwa/refugees/gaza.html.

2 Calculated based on statistics from B’tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. See http://www.btselem.org/english/Statistics/Casualties.asp for a detailed person by person breakdown.

Attacks on Israeli Civilians by Palestinians. B’tselem. See http://www.btselem.org/English/Israeli_Civilians/Qassam_Missiles.asp.

4 Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report (1 – 31 October 2007). United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Activities. See html version at http://66.102.9.104/search?q=cache:cbovg581ua0J:www.ochaopt.org/documents/Gaza_Sitrep_2007_11_05.pdf.

5 Gaza Power Plant Hit by Israeli Airstrike is Insured by US Agency. Farah Stockman. Boston Globe. See http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2006/06/29/gaza_power_plant_hit_by_israeli_airstrike_is_insured_by_us_agency/


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