Preparing the Battlefield

June 30, 2008

Preparing the Battlefield

The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran.

by Seymour M. Hersh July 7, 2008

Operations outside the knowledge and control of commanders have eroded “the coherence of military strategy,” one general says.

Operations outside the knowledge and control of commanders have eroded “the coherence of military strategy,” one general says.

L ate last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.

Under federal law, a Presidential Finding, which is highly classified, must be issued when a covert intelligence operation gets under way and, at a minimum, must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees—the so-called Gang of Eight. Money for the operation can then be reprogrammed from previous appropriations, as needed, by the relevant congressional committees, which also can be briefed.

“The Finding was focussed on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” a person familiar with its contents said, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.” The Finding provided for a whole new range of activities in southern Iran and in the areas, in the east, where Baluchi political opposition is strong, he said.

Although some legislators were troubled by aspects of the Finding, and “there was a significant amount of high-level discussion” about it, according to the source familiar with it, the funding for the escalation was approved. In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership—Congress has been under Democratic control since the 2006 elections—were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party’s presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.

The request for funding came in the same period in which the Administration was coming to terms with a National Intelligence Estimate, released in December, that concluded that Iran had halted its work on nuclear weapons in 2003. The Administration downplayed the significance of the N.I.E., and, while saying that it was committed to diplomacy, continued to emphasize that urgent action was essential to counter the Iranian nuclear threat. President Bush questioned the N.I.E.’s conclusions, and senior national-security officials, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, made similar statements. (So did Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee.) Meanwhile, the Administration also revived charges that the Iranian leadership has been involved in the killing of American soldiers in Iraq: both directly, by dispatching commando units into Iraq, and indirectly, by supplying materials used for roadside bombs and other lethal goods. (There have been questions about the accuracy of the claims; the Times, among others, has reported that “significant uncertainties remain about the extent of that involvement.”)

Military and civilian leaders in the Pentagon share the White House’s concern about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but there is disagreement about whether a military strike is the right solution. Some Pentagon officials believe, as they have let Congress and the media know, that bombing Iran is not a viable response to the nuclear-proliferation issue, and that more diplomacy is necessary.

A Democratic senator told me that, late last year, in an off-the-record lunch meeting, Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Democratic caucus in the Senate. (Such meetings are held regularly.) Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preëmptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.” Gates’s comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch, and another senator asked whether Gates was speaking for Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Gates’s answer, the senator told me, was “Let’s just say that I’m here speaking for myself.” (A spokesman for Gates confirmed that he discussed the consequences of a strike at the meeting, but would not address what he said, other than to dispute the senator’s characterization.)

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose chairman is Admiral Mike Mullen, were “pushing back very hard” against White House pressure to undertake a military strike against Iran, the person familiar with the Finding told me. Similarly, a Pentagon consultant who is involved in the war on terror said that “at least ten senior flag and general officers, including combatant commanders”—the four-star officers who direct military operations around the world—“have weighed in on that issue.”

The most outspoken of those officers is Admiral William Fallon, who until recently was the head of U.S. Central Command, and thus in charge of American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In March, Fallon resigned under pressure, after giving a series of interviews stating his reservations about an armed attack on Iran. For example, late last year he told the Financial Times that the “real objective” of U.S. policy was to change the Iranians’ behavior, and that “attacking them as a means to get to that spot strikes me as being not the first choice.”

Admiral Fallon acknowledged, when I spoke to him in June, that he had heard that there were people in the White House who were upset by his public statements. “Too many people believe you have to be either for or against the Iranians,” he told me. “Let’s get serious. Eighty million people live there, and everyone’s an individual. The idea that they’re only one way or another is nonsense.”

When it came to the Iraq war, Fallon said, “Did I bitch about some of the things that were being proposed? You bet. Some of them were very stupid.”

The Democratic leadership’s agreement to commit hundreds of millions of dollars for more secret operations in Iran was remarkable, given the general concerns of officials like Gates, Fallon, and many others. “The oversight process has not kept pace—it’s been coöpted” by the Administration, the person familiar with the contents of the Finding said. “The process is broken, and this is dangerous stuff we’re authorizing.”

Senior Democrats in Congress told me that they had concerns about the possibility that their understanding of what the new operations entail differs from the White House’s. One issue has to do with a reference in the Finding, the person familiar with it recalled, to potential defensive lethal action by U.S. operatives in Iran. (In early May, the journalist Andrew Cockburn published elements of the Finding in Counterpunch, a newsletter and online magazine.)

The language was inserted into the Finding at the urging of the C.I.A., a former senior intelligence official said. The covert operations set forth in the Finding essentially run parallel to those of a secret military task force, now operating in Iran, that is under the control of JSOC. Under the Bush Administration’s interpretation of the law, clandestine military activities, unlike covert C.I.A. operations, do not need to be depicted in a Finding, because the President has a constitutional right to command combat forces in the field without congressional interference. But the borders between operations are not always clear: in Iran, C.I.A. agents and regional assets have the language skills and the local knowledge to make contacts for the JSOC operatives, and have been working with them to direct personnel, matériel, and money into Iran from an obscure base in western Afghanistan. As a result, Congress has been given only a partial view of how the money it authorized may be used. One of JSOC’s task-force missions, the pursuit of “high-value targets,” was not directly addressed in the Finding. There is a growing realization among some legislators that the Bush Administration, in recent years, has conflated what is an intelligence operation and what is a military one in order to avoid fully informing Congress about what it is doing.

“This is a big deal,” the person familiar with the Finding said. “The C.I.A. needed the Finding to do its traditional stuff, but the Finding does not apply to JSOC. The President signed an Executive Order after September 11th giving the Pentagon license to do things that it had never been able to do before without notifying Congress. The claim was that the military was ‘preparing the battle space,’ and by using that term they were able to circumvent congressional oversight. Everything is justified in terms of fighting the global war on terror.” He added, “The Administration has been fuzzing the lines; there used to be a shade of gray”—between operations that had to be briefed to the senior congressional leadership and those which did not—“but now it’s a shade of mush.”

“The agency says we’re not going to get in the position of helping to kill people without a Finding,” the former senior intelligence official told me. He was referring to the legal threat confronting some agency operatives for their involvement in the rendition and alleged torture of suspects in the war on terror. “This drove the military people up the wall,” he said. As far as the C.I.A. was concerned, the former senior intelligence official said, “the over-all authorization includes killing, but it’s not as though that’s what they’re setting out to do. It’s about gathering information, enlisting support.” The Finding sent to Congress was a compromise, providing legal cover for the C.I.A. while referring to the use of lethal force in ambiguous terms.

The defensive-lethal language led some Democrats, according to congressional sources familiar with their views, to call in the director of the C.I.A., Air Force General Michael V. Hayden, for a special briefing. Hayden reassured the legislators that the language did nothing more than provide authority for Special Forces operatives on the ground in Iran to shoot their way out if they faced capture or harm.

The legislators were far from convinced. One congressman subsequently wrote a personal letter to President Bush insisting that “no lethal action, period” had been authorized within Iran’s borders. As of June, he had received no answer.

Members of Congress have expressed skepticism in the past about the information provided by the White House. On March 15, 2005, David Obey, then the ranking Democrat on the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee, announced that he was putting aside an amendment that he had intended to offer that day, and that would have cut off all funding for national-intelligence programs unless the President agreed to keep Congress fully informed about clandestine military activities undertaken in the war on terror. He had changed his mind, he said, because the White House promised better coöperation. “The Executive Branch understands that we are not trying to dictate what they do,” he said in a floor speech at the time. “We are simply trying to see to it that what they do is consistent with American values and will not get the country in trouble.”

Obey declined to comment on the specifics of the operations in Iran, but he did tell me that the White House reneged on its promise to consult more fully with Congress. He said, “I suspect there’s something going on, but I don’t know what to believe. Cheney has always wanted to go after Iran, and if he had more time he’d find a way to do it. We still don’t get enough information from the agencies, and I have very little confidence that they give us information on the edge.”

None of the four Democrats in the Gang of Eight—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, and House Intelligence Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes—would comment on the Finding, with some noting that it was highly classified. An aide to one member of the Democratic leadership responded, on his behalf, by pointing to the limitations of the Gang of Eight process. The notification of a Finding, the aide said, “is just that—notification, and not a sign-off on activities. Proper oversight of ongoing intelligence activities is done by fully briefing the members of the intelligence committee.” However, Congress does have the means to challenge the White House once it has been sent a Finding. It has the power to withhold funding for any government operation. The members of the House and Senate Democratic leadership who have access to the Finding can also, if they choose to do so, and if they have shared concerns, come up with ways to exert their influence on Administration policy. (A spokesman for the C.I.A. said, “As a rule, we don’t comment one way or the other on allegations of covert activities or purported findings.” The White House also declined to comment.)

A member of the House Appropriations Committee acknowledged that, even with a Democratic victory in November, “it will take another year before we get the intelligence activities under control.” He went on, “We control the money and they can’t do anything without the money. Money is what it’s all about. But I’m very leery of this Administration.” He added, “This Administration has been so secretive.”

One irony of Admiral Fallon’s departure is that he was, in many areas, in agreement with President Bush on the threat posed by Iran. They had a good working relationship, Fallon told me, and, when he ran CENTCOM, were in regular communication. On March 4th, a week before his resignation, Fallon testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying that he was “encouraged” about the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Regarding the role played by Iran’s leaders, he said, “They’ve been absolutely unhelpful, very damaging, and I absolutely don’t condone any of their activities. And I have yet to see anything since I’ve been in this job in the way of a public action by Iran that’s been at all helpful in this region.”

Fallon made it clear in our conversations that he considered it inappropriate to comment publicly about the President, the Vice-President, or Special Operations. But he said he had heard that people in the White House had been “struggling” with his views on Iran. “When I arrived at CENTCOM, the Iranians were funding every entity inside Iraq. It was in their interest to get us out, and so they decided to kill as many Americans as they could. And why not? They didn’t know who’d come out ahead, but they wanted us out. I decided that I couldn’t resolve the situation in Iraq without the neighborhood. To get this problem in Iraq solved, we had to somehow involve Iran and Syria. I had to work the neighborhood.”

Fallon told me that his focus had been not on the Iranian nuclear issue, or on regime change there, but on “putting out the fires in Iraq.” There were constant discussions in Washington and in the field about how to engage Iran and, on the subject of the bombing option, Fallon said, he believed that “it would happen only if the Iranians did something stupid.”

Fallon’s early retirement, however, appears to have been provoked not only by his negative comments about bombing Iran but also by his strong belief in the chain of command and his insistence on being informed about Special Operations in his area of responsibility. One of Fallon’s defenders is retired Marine General John J. (Jack) Sheehan, whose last assignment was as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command, where Fallon was a deputy. Last year, Sheehan rejected a White House offer to become the President’s “czar” for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “One of the reasons the White House selected Fallon for CENTCOM was that he’s known to be a strategic thinker and had demonstrated those skills in the Pacific,” Sheehan told me. (Fallon served as commander-in-chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific from 2005 to 2007.) “He was charged with coming up with an over-all coherent strategy for Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and, by law, the combatant commander is responsible for all military operations within his A.O.”—area of operations. “That was not happening,” Sheehan said. “When Fallon tried to make sense of all the overt and covert activity conducted by the military in his area of responsibility, a small group in the White House leadership shut him out.”

The law cited by Sheehan is the 1986 Defense Reorganization Act, known as Goldwater-Nichols, which defined the chain of command: from the President to the Secretary of Defense, through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and on to the various combatant commanders, who were put in charge of all aspects of military operations, including joint training and logistics. That authority, the act stated, was not to be shared with other echelons of command. But the Bush Administration, as part of its global war on terror, instituted new policies that undercut regional commanders-in-chief; for example, it gave Special Operations teams, at military commands around the world, the highest priority in terms of securing support and equipment. The degradation of the traditional chain of command in the past few years has been a point of tension between the White House and the uniformed military.

“The coherence of military strategy is being eroded because of undue civilian influence and direction of nonconventional military operations,” Sheehan said. “If you have small groups planning and conducting military operations outside the knowledge and control of the combatant commander, by default you can’t have a coherent military strategy. You end up with a disaster, like the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.”

Admiral Fallon, who is known as Fox, was aware that he would face special difficulties as the first Navy officer to lead CENTCOM, which had always been headed by a ground commander, one of his military colleagues told me. He was also aware that the Special Operations community would be a concern. “Fox said that there’s a lot of strange stuff going on in Special Ops, and I told him he had to figure out what they were really doing,” Fallon’s colleague said. “The Special Ops guys eventually figured out they needed Fox, and so they began to talk to him. Fox would have won his fight with Special Ops but for Cheney.”

The Pentagon consultant said, “Fallon went down because, in his own way, he was trying to prevent a war with Iran, and you have to admire him for that.”

In recent months, according to the Iranian media, there has been a surge in violence in Iran; it is impossible at this early stage, however, to credit JSOC or C.I.A. activities, or to assess their impact on the Iranian leadership. The Iranian press reports are being carefully monitored by retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner, who has taught strategy at the National War College and now conducts war games centered on Iran for the federal government, think tanks, and universities. The Iranian press “is very open in describing the killings going on inside the country,” Gardiner said. It is, he said, “a controlled press, which makes it more important that it publishes these things. We begin to see inside the government.” He added, “Hardly a day goes by now we don’t see a clash somewhere. There were three or four incidents over a recent weekend, and the Iranians are even naming the Revolutionary Guard officers who have been killed.”

Earlier this year, a militant Ahwazi group claimed to have assassinated a Revolutionary Guard colonel, and the Iranian government acknowledged that an explosion in a cultural center in Shiraz, in the southern part of the country, which killed at least twelve people and injured more than two hundred, had been a terrorist act and not, as it earlier insisted, an accident. It could not be learned whether there has been American involvement in any specific incident in Iran, but, according to Gardiner, the Iranians have begun publicly blaming the U.S., Great Britain, and, more recently, the C.I.A. for some incidents. The agency was involved in a coup in Iran in 1953, and its support for the unpopular regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi—who was overthrown in 1979—was condemned for years by the ruling mullahs in Tehran, to great effect. “This is the ultimate for the Iranians—to blame the C.I.A.,” Gardiner said. “This is new, and it’s an escalation—a ratcheting up of tensions. It rallies support for the regime and shows the people that there is a continuing threat from the ‘Great Satan.’ ” In Gardiner’s view, the violence, rather than weakening Iran’s religious government, may generate support for it.

Many of the activities may be being carried out by dissidents in Iran, and not by Americans in the field. One problem with “passing money” (to use the term of the person familiar with the Finding) in a covert setting is that it is hard to control where the money goes and whom it benefits. Nonetheless, the former senior intelligence official said, “We’ve got exposure, because of the transfer of our weapons and our communications gear. The Iranians will be able to make the argument that the opposition was inspired by the Americans. How many times have we tried this without asking the right questions? Is the risk worth it?” One possible consequence of these operations would be a violent Iranian crackdown on one of the dissident groups, which could give the Bush Administration a reason to intervene.

A strategy of using ethnic minorities to undermine Iran is flawed, according to Vali Nasr, who teaches international politics at Tufts University and is also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Just because Lebanon, Iraq, and Pakistan have ethnic problems, it does not mean that Iran is suffering from the same issue,” Nasr told me. “Iran is an old country—like France and Germany—and its citizens are just as nationalistic. The U.S. is overestimating ethnic tension in Iran.” The minority groups that the U.S. is reaching out to are either well integrated or small and marginal, without much influence on the government or much ability to present a political challenge, Nasr said. “You can always find some activist groups that will go and kill a policeman, but working with the minorities will backfire, and alienate the majority of the population.”

The Administration may have been willing to rely on dissident organizations in Iran even when there was reason to believe that the groups had operated against American interests in the past. The use of Baluchi elements, for example, is problematic, Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. clandestine officer who worked for nearly two decades in South Asia and the Middle East, told me. “The Baluchis are Sunni fundamentalists who hate the regime in Tehran, but you can also describe them as Al Qaeda,” Baer told me. “These are guys who cut off the heads of nonbelievers—in this case, it’s Shiite Iranians. The irony is that we’re once again working with Sunni fundamentalists, just as we did in Afghanistan in the nineteen-eighties.” Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11th attacks, are Baluchi Sunni fundamentalists.

One of the most active and violent anti-regime groups in Iran today is the Jundallah, also known as the Iranian People’s Resistance Movement, which describes itself as a resistance force fighting for the rights of Sunnis in Iran. “This is a vicious Salafi organization whose followers attended the same madrassas as the Taliban and Pakistani extremists,” Nasr told me. “They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture.” The Jundallah took responsibility for the bombing of a busload of Revolutionary Guard soldiers in February, 2007. At least eleven Guard members were killed. According to Baer and to press reports, the Jundallah is among the groups in Iran that are benefitting from U.S. support.

The C.I.A. and Special Operations communities also have long-standing ties to two other dissident groups in Iran: the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, known in the West as the M.E.K., and a Kurdish separatist group, the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK.

The M.E.K. has been on the State Department’s terrorist list for more than a decade, yet in recent years the group has received arms and intelligence, directly or indirectly, from the United States. Some of the newly authorized covert funds, the Pentagon consultant told me, may well end up in M.E.K. coffers. “The new task force will work with the M.E.K. The Administration is desperate for results.” He added, “The M.E.K. has no C.P.A. auditing the books, and its leaders are thought to have been lining their pockets for years. If people only knew what the M.E.K. is getting, and how much is going to its bank accounts—and yet it is almost useless for the purposes the Administration intends.”

The Kurdish party, PJAK, which has also been reported to be covertly supported by the United States, has been operating against Iran from bases in northern Iraq for at least three years. (Iran, like Iraq and Turkey, has a Kurdish minority, and PJAK and other groups have sought self-rule in territory that is now part of each of those countries.) In recent weeks, according to Sam Gardiner, the military strategist, there has been a marked increase in the number of PJAK armed engagements with Iranians and terrorist attacks on Iranian targets. In early June, the news agency Fars reported that a dozen PJAK members and four Iranian border guards were killed in a clash near the Iraq border; a similar attack in May killed three Revolutionary Guards and nine PJAK fighters. PJAK has also subjected Turkey, a member of NATO, to repeated terrorist attacks, and reports of American support for the group have been a source of friction between the two governments.

Gardiner also mentioned a trip that the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, made to Tehran in June. After his return, Maliki announced that his government would ban any contact between foreigners and the M.E.K.—a slap at the U.S.’s dealings with the group. Maliki declared that Iraq was not willing to be a staging ground for covert operations against other countries. This was a sign, Gardiner said, of “Maliki’s increasingly choosing the interests of Iraq over the interests of the United States.” In terms of U.S. allegations of Iranian involvement in the killing of American soldiers, he said, “Maliki was unwilling to play the blame-Iran game.” Gardiner added that Pakistan had just agreed to turn over a Jundallah leader to the Iranian government. America’s covert operations, he said, “seem to be harming relations with the governments of both Iraq and Pakistan and could well be strengthening the connection between Tehran and Baghdad.”

The White House’s reliance on questionable operatives, and on plans involving possible lethal action inside Iran, has created anger as well as anxiety within the Special Operations and intelligence communities. JSOC’s operations in Iran are believed to be modelled on a program that has, with some success, used surrogates to target the Taliban leadership in the tribal territories of Waziristan, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. But the situations in Waziristan and Iran are not comparable.

In Waziristan, “the program works because it’s small and smart guys are running it,” the former senior intelligence official told me. “It’s being executed by professionals. The N.S.A., the C.I.A., and the D.I.A.”—the Defense Intelligence Agency—“are right in there with the Special Forces and Pakistani intelligence, and they’re dealing with serious bad guys.” He added, “We have to be really careful in calling in the missiles. We have to hit certain houses at certain times. The people on the ground are watching through binoculars a few hundred yards away and calling specific locations, in latitude and longitude. We keep the Predator loitering until the targets go into a house, and we have to make sure our guys are far enough away so they don’t get hit.” One of the most prominent victims of the program, the former official said, was Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior Taliban commander, who was killed on January 31st, reportedly in a missile strike that also killed eleven other people.

A dispatch published on March 26th by the Washington Post reported on the increasing number of successful strikes against Taliban and other insurgent units in Pakistan’s tribal areas. A follow-up article noted that, in response, the Taliban had killed “dozens of people” suspected of providing information to the United States and its allies on the whereabouts of Taliban leaders. Many of the victims were thought to be American spies, and their executions—a beheading, in one case—were videotaped and distributed by DVD as a warning to others.

It is not simple to replicate the program in Iran. “Everybody’s arguing about the high-value-target list,” the former senior intelligence official said. “The Special Ops guys are pissed off because Cheney’s office set up priorities for categories of targets, and now he’s getting impatient and applying pressure for results. But it takes a long time to get the right guys in place.”

The Pentagon consultant told me, “We’ve had wonderful results in the Horn of Africa with the use of surrogates and false flags—basic counterintelligence and counter-insurgency tactics. And we’re beginning to tie them in knots in Afghanistan. But the White House is going to kill the program if they use it to go after Iran. It’s one thing to engage in selective strikes and assassinations in Waziristan and another in Iran. The White House believes that one size fits all, but the legal issues surrounding extrajudicial killings in Waziristan are less of a problem because Al Qaeda and the Taliban cross the border into Afghanistan and back again, often with U.S. and NATO forces in hot pursuit. The situation is not nearly as clear in the Iranian case. All the considerations—judicial, strategic, and political—are different in Iran.”

He added, “There is huge opposition inside the intelligence community to the idea of waging a covert war inside Iran, and using Baluchis and Ahwazis as surrogates. The leaders of our Special Operations community all have remarkable physical courage, but they are less likely to voice their opposition to policy. Iran is not Waziristan.”

A Gallup poll taken last November, before the N.I.E. was made public, found that seventy-three per cent of those surveyed thought that the United States should use economic action and diplomacy to stop Iran’s nuclear program, while only eighteen per cent favored direct military action. Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats to endorse a military strike. Weariness with the war in Iraq has undoubtedly affected the public’s tolerance for an attack on Iran. This mood could change quickly, however. The potential for escalation became clear in early January, when five Iranian patrol boats, believed to be under the command of the Revolutionary Guard, made a series of aggressive moves toward three Navy warships sailing through the Strait of Hormuz. Initial reports of the incident made public by the Pentagon press office said that the Iranians had transmitted threats, over ship-to-ship radio, to “explode” the American ships. At a White House news conference, the President, on the day he left for an eight-day trip to the Middle East, called the incident “provocative” and “dangerous,” and there was, very briefly, a sense of crisis and of outrage at Iran. “TWO MINUTES FROM WAR” was the headline in one British newspaper.

The crisis was quickly defused by Vice-Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, the commander of U.S. naval forces in the region. No warning shots were fired, the Admiral told the Pentagon press corps on January 7th, via teleconference from his headquarters, in Bahrain. “Yes, it’s more serious than we have seen, but, to put it in context, we do interact with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and their Navy regularly,” Cosgriff said. “I didn’t get the sense from the reports I was receiving that there was a sense of being afraid of these five boats.”

Admiral Cosgriff’s caution was well founded: within a week, the Pentagon acknowledged that it could not positively identify the Iranian boats as the source of the ominous radio transmission, and press reports suggested that it had instead come from a prankster long known for sending fake messages in the region. Nonetheless, Cosgriff’s demeanor angered Cheney, according to the former senior intelligence official. But a lesson was learned in the incident: The public had supported the idea of retaliation, and was even asking why the U.S. didn’t do more. The former official said that, a few weeks later, a meeting took place in the Vice-President’s office. “The subject was how to create a casus belli between Tehran and Washington,” he said.

In June, President Bush went on a farewell tour of Europe. He had tea with Queen Elizabeth II and dinner with Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni, the President and First Lady of France. The serious business was conducted out of sight, and involved a series of meetings on a new diplomatic effort to persuade the Iranians to halt their uranium-enrichment program. (Iran argues that its enrichment program is for civilian purposes and is legal under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.) Secretary of State Rice had been involved with developing a new package of incentives. But the Administration’s essential negotiating position seemed unchanged: talks could not take place until Iran halted the program. The Iranians have repeatedly and categorically rejected that precondition, leaving the diplomatic situation in a stalemate; they have not yet formally responded to the new incentives.

The continuing impasse alarms many observers. Joschka Fischer, the former German Foreign Minister, recently wrote in a syndicated column that it may not “be possible to freeze the Iranian nuclear program for the duration of the negotiations to avoid a military confrontation before they are completed. Should this newest attempt fail, things will soon get serious. Deadly serious.” When I spoke to him last week, Fischer, who has extensive contacts in the diplomatic community, said that the latest European approach includes a new element: the willingness of the U.S. and the Europeans to accept something less than a complete cessation of enrichment as an intermediate step. “The proposal says that the Iranians must stop manufacturing new centrifuges and the other side will stop all further sanction activities in the U.N. Security Council,” Fischer said, although Iran would still have to freeze its enrichment activities when formal negotiations begin. “This could be acceptable to the Iranians—if they have good will.”

The big question, Fischer added, is in Washington. “I think the Americans are deeply divided on the issue of what to do about Iran,” he said. “Some officials are concerned about the fallout from a military attack and others think an attack is unavoidable. I know the Europeans, but I have no idea where the Americans will end up on this issue.”

There is another complication: American Presidential politics. Barack Obama has said that, if elected, he would begin talks with Iran with no “self-defeating” preconditions (although only after diplomatic groundwork had been laid). That position has been vigorously criticized by John McCain. The Washington Post recently quoted Randy Scheunemann, the McCain campaign’s national-security director, as stating that McCain supports the White House’s position, and that the program be suspended before talks begin. What Obama is proposing, Scheunemann said, “is unilateral cowboy summitry.”

Scheunemann, who is known as a neoconservative, is also the McCain campaign’s most important channel of communication with the White House. He is a friend of David Addington, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. I have heard differing accounts of Scheunemann’s influence with McCain; though some close to the McCain campaign talk about him as a possible national-security adviser, others say he is someone who isn’t taken seriously while “telling Cheney and others what they want to hear,” as a senior McCain adviser put it.

It is not known whether McCain, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been formally briefed on the operations in Iran. At the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in June, Obama repeated his plea for “tough and principled diplomacy.” But he also said, along with McCain, that he would keep the threat of military action against Iran on the table. 

The Hedonists of Power

June 25, 2008

The Hedonists of Power

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20080623_the_hedonists_of_power/

Posted on Jun 23, 2008

By Chris Hedges

Washington has become Versailles. We are ruled, entertained and informed by courtiers. The popular media are courtiers. The Democrats, like the Republicans, are courtiers. Our pundits and experts are courtiers. We are captivated by the hollow stagecraft of political theater as we are ruthlessly stripped of power. It is smoke and mirrors, tricks and con games. We are being had.

The past week was a good one if you were a courtier. We were instructed by the high priests on television over the past few days to mourn a Sunday morning talk show host, who made $5 million a year and who gave a platform to the powerful and the famous so they could spin, equivocate and lie to the nation. We were repeatedly told by these television courtiers, people like Tom Brokaw and Wolf Blitzer, that this talk show host was one of our nation’s greatest journalists, as if sitting in a studio, putting on makeup and chatting with Dick Cheney or George W. Bush have much to do with journalism.

No journalist makes $5 million a year. No journalist has a comfortable, cozy relationship with the powerful. No journalist believes that acting as a conduit, or a stenographer, for the powerful is a primary part of his or her calling. Those in power fear and dislike real journalists. Ask Seymour Hersh and Amy Goodman how often Bush or Cheney has invited them to dinner at the White House or offered them an interview.

All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, and it is the job of the journalist to do the hard, tedious reporting to shine a light on these lies. It is the job of courtiers, those on television playing the role of journalists, to feed off the scraps tossed to them by the powerful and never question the system. In the slang of the profession, these television courtiers are “throats.” These courtiers, including the late Tim Russert, never gave a voice to credible critics in the buildup to the war against Iraq. They were too busy playing their roles as red-blooded American patriots. They never fought back in their public forums against the steady erosion of our civil liberties and the trashing of our Constitution. These courtiers blindly accept the administration’s current propaganda to justify an attack on Iran. They parrot this propaganda. They dare not defy the corporate state. The corporations that employ them make them famous and rich. It is their Faustian pact. No class of courtiers, from the eunuchs behind Manchus in the 19th century to the Baghdad caliphs of the Abbasid caliphate, has ever transformed itself into a responsible elite. Courtiers are hedonists of power.

Our Versailles was busy this past week. The Democrats passed the FISA bill, which provides immunity for the telecoms that cooperated with the National Security Agency’s illegal surveillance over the past six years. This bill, which when signed means we will never know the extent of the Bush White House’s violation of our civil liberties, is expected to be adopted by the Senate. Barack Obama has promised to sign it in the name of national security. The bill gives the U.S. government a license to eavesdrop on our phone calls and e-mails. It demolishes our right to privacy. It endangers the work of journalists, human rights workers, crusading lawyers and whistle-blowers who attempt to expose abuses the government seeks to hide. These private communications can be stored indefinitely and disseminated, not just to the U.S. government but to other governments as well. The bill, once signed into law, will make it possible for those in power to identify and silence anyone who dares to make public information that defies the official narrative.

Being a courtier, and Obama is one of the best, requires agility and eloquence. The most talented of them can be lauded as persuasive actors. They entertain us. They make us feel good. They convince us they are our friends. We would like to have dinner with them. They are the smiley faces of a corporate state that has hijacked the government and is raping the nation. When the corporations make their iron demands, these courtiers drop to their knees, whether to placate the telecommunications companies that fund their campaigns and want to be protected from lawsuits, or to permit oil and gas companies to rake in obscene profits and keep in place the vast subsidies of corporate welfare doled out by the state.

We cannot differentiate between illusion and reality. We trust courtiers wearing face powder who deceive us in the name of journalism. We trust courtiers in our political parties who promise to fight for our interests and then pass bill after bill to further corporate fraud and abuse. We confuse how we feel about courtiers like Obama and Russert with real information, facts and knowledge. We chant in unison with Obama that we want change, we yell “yes we can,” and then stand dumbly by as he coldly votes away our civil liberties. The Democratic Party, including Obama, continues to fund the war. It refuses to impeach Bush and Cheney. It allows the government to spy on us without warrants or cause. And then it tells us it is our salvation. This is a form of collective domestic abuse. And, as so often happens in the weird pathology of victim and victimizer, we keep coming back for more.

Chris Hedges, who was a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for The New York Times, says he will vote for Ralph Nader for president.

Sibel Edmonds Case: More Destruction of Evidence re: Nuclear Black Market

June 6, 2008

Sibel Edmonds Case: More Destruction of Evidence re: Nuclear Black Market

by Luke Ryland
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
June 6, 2008

It’s remarkable, really.

The US government has taken some extreme measures to silence former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds. Among other reasons, they are obviously very nervous about information that Sibel has regarding the involvement of US, Israeli, and Turkish officials in supplying the nuclear black market.

Now we have this: The US Government apparently demanded that the Swiss government destroy all evidence – all 30,000 pages of it – related to the pending prosecution of the Tinner family. The Tinners were “very key suppliers” of AQ Khan’s nuclear proliferation network, but their court case is now unlikely to proceed, given the destruction of the evidence.

Basic Facts

The Tinners, the father and two sons, were arrested by German authorities and extradited to Switzerland in 2004 for their role in supplying the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network.

Two weeks ago, the Swiss President, responding to media reports, read out a prepared statement announcing that all the evidence relating to the Tinners’ case was destroyed late last year. He said that it was important to destroy all the evidence, which included sensitive information about how to make nuclear weapons, in case the information fell into the hands of terrorists. He also stated that Switzerland was merely meeting its obligations under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and that the IAEA supervised the destruction of the documents.

That sounds reasonable.

The Questions

Unilateral Decision Making. The Swiss government is under pressure internally as a result of its unilateral decision to destroy the evidence. Both the parliament and the courts are accusing the Swiss government of violating the principle of Separation of Powers. The Parliament has already announced that it will hold an investigation into the matter.

Why the Secrecy? The announcement that the evidence was destroyed (6 months ago) was forced on the Swiss President by rumours in the media. The Swiss government refuses to answer any questions regarding the matter, as do the IAEA and the US government.

NPT Obligations? I haven’t seen any media report which confirms or supports the Swiss claim that this destruction of evidence was an obligation under the NPT. However the Guardian, which has the best reporting on this story, quotes a ‘former senior IAEA official’ saying: “I am quite astonished. It’s very unusual to see people destroying documents like this. They should be put somewhere very safe.”

The destruction of evidence took place with the apparent imprimatur of the IAEA, but they refuse to comment too. Has the IAEA been corrupted too?

US Involvement

Virtually every media article about this matter – including those articles preceding the official announcement – notes the strong suspicion that the Swiss Government acted on behalf of the US Government, specifically the CIA. The Guardian has the details:

“While the Swiss government maintains the treasure trove of nuclear intelligence was destroyed for reasons of national security, the Americans may have been involved because Tinner is believed to have also been working for the CIA. Albright said Tinner was recruited by the American agency from 1999-2000.

“The Swiss were doing other people’s dirty work,” said an international official familiar with the investigation into the Khan network. “The allegation is that Urs (Tinner) was on the CIA payroll for a very large sum of money.”
[…]
The Americans were also present (at the destruction), according to the international official. “The Americans were involved in the destruction. They were calling the shots,” he said.
[…]
Had the evidence been presented in court, compromising and embarrassing information about the CIA’s activities with the Khan network could have surfaced, say experts and officials. “

Time Magazine has a more benign take on the reasons that the CIA might have wanted the evidence destroyed:

“The official stonewalling has fueled speculation that the United States, and specifically the CIA, has pressured the Swiss government to destroy the documents to aid its own efforts to stop nuclear smuggling, whatever the effect on the Tinners’ trials. (emphasis mine)”

One item that I have not seen mentioned in any of the recent press reports is that the US government actively hindered the Swiss investigation into the Tinners for at least 18 months. In May 2006, former weapons inspector David Albright testified in Congress that the US government had been stonewalling the Swiss investigation:

“The U.S. Government Needs to Cooperate With Swiss Prosecutions of the Tinners.

Although the focus today is on Pakistan and unanswered questions about the Khan network, the United States has been remiss in assisting the overseas prosecution of key members of the Khan network. The United States has ignored multiple requests from Swiss prosecutors for cooperation that have extended over a year.
[…]
The (Swiss) Office of the Attorney General is disappointed over this matter. It is difficult to understand the actions of the U.S. Government. Its lack of assistance needlessly complicates this important investigation.
[…]
The United States should respond to the Swiss requests for assistance as quickly as possible. To continue to ignore these requests undermines the vital prosecution of key members of the Khan network and risks undercutting support for Swiss cooperation in non-proliferation matters. In addition, I find this lack of cooperation frankly embarrassing to the United States and those of us who believe that the United States should take the lead in bringing members of the Khan network to justice for arming our enemies with nuclear weapons.”

In an interview on Democracy Now a week later, Albright said that he finds the US stonewalling “disturbing and perplexing,” “mystifying” and “embarrassing as an American,” adding:

“The signal (the U.S. government is) sending is that it doesn’t want the Swiss to prosecute these three people, and yet they provide no reason for that.”

Albright’s perspective certainly add some important context to the allegations that the US government pressured the Swiss to destroy the Tinner files in order to prevent a public trial – and all that might entail…

Secrecy

The Tinner case brings to mind the Sibel Edmonds case, in terms of the underlying issues, the secrecy, and the destruction of evidence.

One of the key issues in Sibel’s case is the involvement of American, Turkish and Israeli officials in supplying the nuclear black market, including the so-called AQ Khan network. See the UK’s Times’ “For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets:

Edmonds described how foreign intelligence agents had enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and nuclear institutions.
[…]
Her story shows just how much the West was infiltrated by foreign states seeking nuclear secrets. It illustrates how western government officials turned a blind eye to, or were even helping, countries such as Pakistan acquire bomb technology.

In order to keep this information from becoming public, Sibel’s case has been swept under the blanket of secrecy by the invocation of the State Secrets Privilege.

Destruction of Evidence

In a subsequent article, The Times also reported that the FBI “has been accused of covering up a file detailing government dealings with a network stealing nuclear secrets.” The case file, 203A-WF-210023, was known to exist, but the FBI now denies that it exists. The question at the time was whether the FBI was lying about the existence of the file, or whether the case file, which contained all the evidence of a multi-year counterintelligence investigation, had been destroyed. I had been leaning toward the option that the FBI was hiding the existence of the file, but given that the US government has apparently been able to orchestrate the destruction of evidence in the Swiss Tinner case, it’s easier to imagine that they could, and would, destroy their own case file.

Tenuous Justifications

The main argument for the destruction of the Tinner evidence is that it had to be destroyed in case the nuclear blueprints somehow got into the hands of terrorists or rogue states. This is obviously a worthy objective, however:

a) Copies of the exact same information are known to exist elsewhere, and is suspected to be on the Khan network computers in Dubai.

b) There is no indication in any of the media reports that any effort was made to destroy only the sensitive information while maintaining the evidence required to prosecute the Tinners.

c) The US (and UK) allowed the network to proliferate nuclear hardware and nuclear know-how for years without apparently being concerned about the fallout. Why the concern all of a sudden with the Tinner case?

The Times accurately described how the US has ignored proliferation for years, without any apparent concern:

“The wider nuclear network has been monitored for many years by a joint Anglo-American intelligence effort. But rather than shut it down, investigations by law enforcement bodies such as the FBI and Britain’s Revenue & Customs have been aborted to preserve diplomatic relations.”

In Sibel’s case, the FBI watched while the network delivered nuclear product not only to their acknowledged end-customers, but also while freelancers within the network made copies of the information stolen “from every nuclear agency in the United States” and sold it to the highest bidder. There’s no indication that the US government did anything to stop the flow of any of this information at the time, but rather went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that Sibel’s knowledge of these events did not become public. Similarly, people at the Pentagon and State Department were able to ensure that the honest counterintelligence agents at the FBI were prevented from moving forward on any of their multi-year investigations that had discovered all of these nefarious activities.

After all this, we are now being asked to believe that the destruction of evidence in the Tinner case is to prevent secure information from getting in the hands of terrorists? Please.

Where is the Media?

One other similarity between Sibel’s case and the Tinner case is the absence of the US mainstream media. The Tinner case broke on May 23. The Guardian article was on May 31. The US media has been completely AWOL on this story, apart from a single AP story that ran in some venues on May 23. UPI ran a short article based on the Guardian story, and Time ran an article on June 3. The New York Times hasn’t run a single article on the story.

The silence (1,2) is baffling.

Summary

The US government has done just about everything it can to ensure that Sibel Edmonds is prohibited from spilling the beans on what she knows about the nuclear black market, among other things. Now we see the hand of the US government apparently reaching into a foreign democracy, exporting the concept of the ‘unitary executive’ and upsetting the balance of powers, to destroy evidence which was to be used to prosecute crimes involving the spread of nuclear weapons to rogue regimes.

The US government had previously demonstrated that it didn’t wanted to prosecute these crimes, therefore their flimsy ex-poste rationales for destroying the evidence, in secret, need to be held up for extra scrutiny.

What’s going on???

***

Crossposted at Let Sibel Edmonds Speak

For more background on Sibel’s case and the nuclear black market, see my “Sibel Edmonds Case: Nukes for sale (Pt 2)” and “Sibel Edmonds Case: Benazir and The ‘Islamic’ Bomb

Personal Reflections on the Crisis in America by Richard C. Cook

June 5, 2008

Personal Reflections on the Crisis in America by Richard C. Cook

Digg It

by Richard C. Cook
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
richardccook.com

WILLIAMSBURG, VA, June 4, 2008. I moved back to Williamsburg a year ago, after retiring from the federal government, in order to live [and] write at the home of my elderly mother. She resides near the Restored Area, a half-mile from the reconstructed colonial Capitol. At this site on May 15, 1776, the Second Virginia Convention voted 112-0 to instruct its delegates in Philadelphia to enter a motion for independence. If the U.S. was born in Philadelphia, it was conceived here.

My mother’s name is Marjorie Cook, and she is an 85-year old retired interpreter for Colonial Williamsburg. Also living in the house are my sister Sandy, an R.N., and her daughter Cathryn, about to graduate from high school.

My mother lives in the house that she and my father, Dick Cook, built in 1963, three years after we moved from Michigan. He was a chemist for Dow Chemical, which had opened a nearby textile processing plant along with Badische, a German company. Later my parents divorced, and he now lives in Newport News, about 20 miles away.

My mother’s house cost $21,000, is paid for, and she has no debt. While real estate assessments have gone up, the tax rate in Williamsburg is lower than in any of the surrounding communities. So it is a good place for an elderly person with a pension to live in a country where local governments routinely tax the elderly and the poor out of their homes.

Since childhood I had a passion for history, with many men in my family being involved in historic events. My father served with the Seabees on Attu Island in the Aleutians during World War II. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a sailor on the World War I troop transports traveling to and from France from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Also during that war, my grandmother’s brother was a member of the Army Air Corps.

On my father’s side, my great-grandfather Hill acquired land by taking part in the Arapaho land rush of 1892 in Oklahoma’s Indian Territory. Back in the Civil War, my great-great grandfather William Forster, who’d landed at Ellis Island during the Irish potato famine, was a Union artillery sergeant. His unit was with General Grant at the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House in 1865.

Education

My family voted Democratic going back to New Deal days. The fall after we moved to Williamsburg in 1960, I worked with a friend handing out literature on behalf of John F. Kennedy’s campaign. One night Bobby Kennedy came to Williamsburg to speak on behalf of his brother’s candidacy on the dimly-lit steps of the Williamsburg courthouse. He gave a fervent speech, without notes, saying it was time for a new era of achievement and optimism in America after the tensions of the Cold War.

When President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, I was a senior at James Blair High School. I wrote for the school newspaper, The Blarion, and worked weekends as a disk jockey for WBCI, the local radio station.

That Thursday afternoon, a teacher told me to go to the office to listen to the news coming in over the radio. I was numb with disbelief when I heard Kennedy was dead. At WBCI we played funeral music all weekend, along with the news bulletins. I was working when a listener called and said Lee Harvey Oswald had just been shot in the basement of the Dallas police headquarters. I ran to the news ticker, yanked the story, and read it on the air.

I wrote an editorial for the The Blarion, saying that the killing was a sign of a deranged society, with more troubles surely on the way. The U.S. military commitment in Vietnam was escalating, and by March 1965 we would have combat troops on the ground. The struggle for civil rights in the American South would also turn violent.

I was named “Most Likely to Succeed” and in September 1964 entered Yale University as a scholarship student. I was in the same freshman class as a young man named George W. Bush. But I had been shaken to my depths by the Kennedy assassination and had been affected by the turmoil in our home with my parents drifting apart.

At Yale I was more interested in reading existential writers like Albert Camus than attending classes on political science that were obviously intended to prepare us to become part of the American ruling elite. Scholarship students were required to wash dishes in the Yale dining halls, which I resented.

I read Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgment, which questioned the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman who shot Kennedy. One night a professor from the Yale Law School was speaking about the Warren Commission. When I brought up Lane’s objections to the “magic bullet” theory, the professor answered me with vehement contempt.

Years later I read a book by Professor Donald Gibson of the University of Pittsburg entitled The Kennedy Assassination Cover-Up. Gibson concluded that the cover-up was a project of figures in the Eastern establishment who pressured President Lyndon Johnson to hurry and form the high-level commission that Chief Justice Earl Warren would head. The commission tried to put to rest any suspicion that figures other than Oswald had been involved. According to Gibson, the leading institutional affiliations of the persons bringing the pressure to bear on Johnson were The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Yale Law School.

I resigned from Yale after six weeks. Regrettably, George W. Bush and I would now be treading separate paths. I then attended the College of William and Mary in my hometown of Williamsburg for a semester until I left town and spent a few months traveling around the country by bus and hitchhiking, making side-trips to Canada and Peru. I ended up flat broke in a room at the Mapes Hotel in Reno, Nevada, where I wrote a postcard to the Dean of Students at William and Mary asking to be allowed to return.

Once I was back, I was admitted to the humanities honors program, studied relentlessly, wrote for the William and Mary Review, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. I also took part in the 1969 March on Washington against the Vietnam War.

The most famous alumnus of William and Mary was Thomas Jefferson, whose “presence” played a key role in my becoming the person I am today. Jefferson abhorred war. In my opinion, he was the president who, more than any other, favored the right of hard-working ordinary people to a decent and prosperous life.

As President George Washington’s Secretary of State, Jefferson opposed Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton’s plan to put the finances of the new nation in the hands of the private financiers who bought stock in the First Bank of the United States. When Jefferson became president in 1800, he put a stop to the use of deficit financing to build a military establishment by his action in balancing the federal budget for eight consecutive years.

Jefferson has been vilified for trying to steer a course of neutrality during the endless wars between Britain and France, even though his policy of restraint lay the groundwork for a century of federal budget discipline, with the exception of the Civil War. Critics who would rather bestow praise on Hamilton, John Adams, and the Federalists in general as forerunners of today’s military imperial state find fault with Jefferson under such pretexts as his ownership of slaves, his relationship with Sally Hemmings, or his “vendettas” against Vice President Aaron Burr and Chief Justice John Marshall who presided over Burr’s 1807 trial for treason.

Today, back in Williamsburg, I can see even more clearly that Jefferson was one of the great men of history. He wrote in the Declaration of Independence the now-familiar words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This statement has never been surpassed as a summary of democratic principles or in expressing our God-given right to freedom, whether from governments, tyrants, or the brutal financial oppression we see everywhere in the world today emanating from global finance capitalism.

Ever since he wrote it, Jefferson’s formulation has resonated with those who love liberty, both for themselves and others, as has the clarity with which the Declaration of Independence expressed the right to choose our own form of government. Later Jefferson wrote, “I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.” He also wrote, “Every generation needs a new revolution.”

I should point out that I never saw Jefferson’s ideals as promoting “license” vs. “liberty,” or as supporting the idea of viewing any action of government as ipso facto evil. Jefferson favored a limited government elected by “We the People” and served in positions of public responsibility for most of his life. He saw government as a servant of the public, not its master. He saw the human individual as God’s highest creation, not some social, economic, or governmental collective. He also knew that constructive government actions, such as the peaceable acquisition of the Louisiana Territory, promoted freedom, whereas policies based on warfare and violence destroyed it.

Going to Work in Washington

In 1970, at the height of the Vietnam War, I graduated from William and Mary and went to work for the U.S. Civil Service Commission in Washington, D.C. I was soon working on policy-level assignments, such as drafting a regulation that authorized federal agencies to pay for college-level courses for lower-graded employees. It was part of the federal upward mobility program.

After two years at the Commission, I resigned from the government and taught high school history, English, and phys. ed. at the Field School, a newly-founded private secondary school in northwest Washington. There I taught the children of such notables as Senator James Abourezk and Washington attorney Max Kampelman, later President Reagan’s arms negotiator.

After two years of teaching I returned to the U.S. Civil Service Commission where I was put in charge of conducting evaluations of Bureau of Training regional training centers. Just after I went back to work for the government, President Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency on August 8, 1974. On April 30, 1975 came the fall of Saigon, which ended the Vietnam War.

One time my wife and I were invited to a dinner at the home of Ray Borntraeger, a Bureau of Training manager with political connections, where the guest of honor was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, prime minister of Pakistan. Educated in the U.S. and Great Britain, Bhutto was determined to modernize Pakistan and acquire nuclear energy technology.

This was beyond what the Western powers would tolerate, and Bhutto was threatened by Henry Kissinger, who said, according to Bhutto’s autobiography, If I am Assassinated, “We can destabilize your government and make a horrible example out of you.” In 1977, Bhutto was overthrown by General Zia-ul-Haq, then tried and executed on trumped-up charges.

Borntraeger’s dinner party took place in the dining room of his modest middle-class home in Northern Virginia, where Bhutto captivated the guests with his quiet brilliance and piercing expressing. After his death, his daughter Benazir, also educated in the U.S., was twice prime minister of Pakistan. Her assassination on December 27, 2007, was excruciatingly painful to me, having once met her father. It was a family beset by tragedy.

In 1976, I transferred to the Food and Drug Administration, where I worked at their headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, as a policy analyst on the staff of Commissioner Donald Kennedy. From there I was brought into the Jimmy Carter White House as an aide to Esther Peterson, the president’s special assistant for consumer affairs.

The Carter White House and Monetary Reform

Once at the White House Office, I worked mainly on Executive Order 11280, signed by President Carter, which required each federal agency to establish a new consumer affairs program giving the public more opportunity to participate in federal decision-making and acquire information on governmental activities. Carter signed the order after the defeat by Congress of White House-proposed legislation for a Consumer Protection Agency.

While working for Esther Peterson at the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House West Wing, I discovered a remarkable series of essays from the 1920s by British writer A.O. Orage, editor of the New Age. Orage wrote about the ideas of a British engineer named C.H. Douglas, who had published a book entitled Economic Democracy in 1918.

Douglas was the founder of the Social Credit movement, which later became a political force in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but which never had an impact in the U.S. Douglas’s central idea was that in a modern industrial economy the need for a business firm to hold back some of its earnings for future investment meant there would always be a “gap” between the prices companies must charge for goods and services and the net purchasing power available to a nation’s population to purchase that output.

This gap, said Douglas, was the cause of economic recessions and depressions. He also pointed out that under existing political conditions, it’s the financiers of a nation who benefit, because they fill the gap between prices and purchasing power with bank lending at interest. This lending for consumption was apart from the ordinary types of financing which banks routinely extend to businesses as liquidity for day-to-day operations under what has traditionally been called the “real bills” doctrine.

The gap, Douglas said, was a primary cause of war, because another way to fill it, besides bank lending, is for a nation to maintain a positive trade balance. Since each nation has a need to maintain a trade advantage, they obviously end up fighting each other for markets as did Great Britain and Germany in World War I.

I immediately saw the applicability of Douglas’s ideas to the economic circumstances of the 1970s, where the “business cycle” of inflation, followed afterwards by recession, was recurring in a manner similar to the 1920s and 30s. What Douglas was explaining, I realized, was the “poverty in the midst of plenty” syndrome of modern economic life.

Douglas advocated filling the gap by monetizing what he saw as the de facto appreciation of the economy over time and issuing to citizens a periodic “National Dividend” that would supplement purchasing power with stipends paid by the government but without recourse to taxation or borrowing. It was “giving away money,” but for sound economic reasons and according to a measured calculation of value backed by actual industrial output.

Douglas’s analysis was brilliant and was clearly a pathway to real economic freedom. I saw that it was a National Dividend that could make Jefferson’s ideas of political democracy possible by making economic democracy a reality. It would result in the elusive “leisure dividend” that was supposed to have accompanied the modern industrial economy but never has. Later I discovered that this was the thinking behind the experiment on a smaller scale of the resource dividend enacted by the state of Alaska through the Alaska Permanent Fund established in 1976, amounting today to almost $2,000 per resident annually.

I also saw how the deficit spending notions of John Maynard Keynes were actually an attempt to eliminate Douglas’s “gap” through governmental rather than private sector debt but which in the end would be just as unfair and self-defeating. Later I learned that Keynes knew about Douglas’s ideas but had decided to propose a solution that would not appear so threatening to the financiers. It was “Keynesian economics” that would eventually lead to today’s un-payable U.S. national debt of almost $10 trillion and a foreign policy based on conquest to support worldwide trade and dollar hegemony.

Excited by what I was learning from my study of Douglas, I convened a meeting of friends and associates which we held in the Old Executive Office Building in the summer of 1980. But soon my early interest in monetary reform was overtaken by other events.

I was at the White House when Jimmy Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election. It had been evident that Carter might lose the election because the Federal Reserve under Chairman Paul Volcker was raising interest rates to combat the inflation from the oil price shocks of the 1970s. Later I learned that Carter had not been told that the Federal Reserve would be taking this type of drastic action that led to the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Carter’s reelection campaign was also damaged by the drawn-out negotiations involving the release of 52 U.S. government employees from the takeover of our embassy in Tehran by Iranian revolutionaries. The negotiations dragged on through the fall of 1980. The release of the hostages finally took place six minutes after Ronald Reagan took the oath of office on January 20, 1981, leading to speculation that Reagan’s campaign operatives had meddled to cause delays in order to make Carter look inept.

I also remember how shocked we were when Reagan’s aides stole President Carter’s briefing book and used it to prep their candidate before the TV debates. What kind of people were these, we wondered? All things considered, it became clear that Carter’s second term had been stolen from him.

One aspect of Carter’s presidency with harmful long-term consequences was his abolishment of the U.S. Civil Service Commission and its replacement with the Office of Personnel Management within the Executive Office of the President. The emblem of the Commission had been the North Star, which symbolized the independence and integrity of a civil service based on merit rather than politics.

This idea was lost under Carter in order to make the career workforce more “responsive.” The Senior Executive Service was set up for similar purposes, with democracy the loser. Under the onerous bureaucratic system for admitting civil servants into the executive ranks and evaluating their performance, independent judgment has been virtually eliminated in favor of a rigid and heavily politicized top-down system of control.

Carter had been a member of the Trilateral Commission, which was set up by U.S. financier David Rockefeller with the help of Professor Zbigniew Brzezinski, a native of Poland. As we now know, the Trilateral Commission has the aim of promoting a world government of the financial and technical elite known later, in the words of President George H.W. Bush, as the “New World Order.” But Carter was evidently not cooperating fully enough, so, seemingly, found himself dumped.

Today, as a prolific author and head of the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, he is a voice in the wilderness in promoting a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Carter had been working toward this goal since he hosted talks at Camp David in 1978 between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin that led to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.

“The Reagan Revolution”

After Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency, I worked for two years at the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, which was an extension of the White House consumer office. The president’s special assistant for consumer affairs was now Virginia Knauer, who had held the same office under President Richard Nixon, and for whom I wrote speeches and reports. We were afraid that with the Reagan cuts of the federal civilian budget our office would be abolished, but that didn’t happen.

Still, there wasn’t much to do any longer in the field of consumer affairs, so I spent a lot of my time at the Library of Congress reading whatever interested me. After two more years with the government, my wife Phyllis and I left town with our baby daughter to live and work on a small farm we had bought in Monroe County, West Virginia. But after running out of money, we sold the farm and returned to Washington, where I was offered a job at NASA as a resource analyst for the space shuttle program.

The Reagan presidency was a milestone in U.S. history, where the military-industrial complex, aided and abetted by figures within the Conservative Movement associated with such institutions as the Committee on the Present Danger and the Heritage Foundation, became the dominant power within the federal government. They had strong affiliations with the most conservative and outspoken elements within Israeli politics, such as the Likud Party. By now the arming of Israel had become one of the central tenets of U.S. foreign policy.

Reagan may have had his own ideas about restoring American greatness through conservative principles, but in my opinion he was a captive of forces he little understood. His willingness to acquiesce may have been facilitated by his near-assassination on March 30, 1981, by a young man named John Hinckley. It was later reported that Hinckley’s father and Vice President George H.W. Bush had a longstanding business and political relationship, though no connection between Bush and the attempted assassination has ever been proven.

Reagan had run his presidential campaign against big government but became the biggest Keynesian deficit spender in history. He looked good on camera but seemed to understand little of what went on behind the scenes in the course of his trillion-dollar military build-up, the launching of proxy wars against supposedly pro-communist forces in third world countries, the “Star Wars” weapons-in-space program, or the arms-for-hostages deal run out of the White House in connection with Iran and the Nicaraguan contras.

Showing early signs of dementia by the middle of his second term, Reagan’s daily calendar was arranged according to astrological prognostications, meanwhile the deregulation of the nation’s financial industry led to the merger-acquisition-junk bond mania that lay the groundwork for the financial meltdown of the 2000s.

On January 26, 1986, space shuttle Challenger blew up a minute after it was launched. At NASA I was an eye-witness to the Challenger disaster and cover-up, and I leaked documents to The New York Times proving NASA’s prior knowledge of the flaws on the solid rocket booster O-rings which failed and caused the tragedy. I was called to testify before the Rogers Commission but never returned to NASA. Instead, I transferred to the U.S. Treasury Department, where I worked for 21 years, starting with the final years of Reagan’s second term.

Though the Rogers Commission had denied it, I later discovered that the Reagan White House pressured NASA to launch Challenger against engineers’ recommendations so that Teacher-in-Space Christa McAuliffe would be aloft in time for his 1986 state-of-the-union speech. I also learned that NASA failed to fix the O-ring problem to avoid delaying shuttle flights that were to be launched with military payloads for the Air Force.

Reagan is lauded as the Great Communicator and is viewed by many as a virtual demi-god. The reason is not hard to see. Reagan’s “supply-side” tax cuts sharply reduced income tax rates for the wealthiest taxpayers, providing them with a bonanza that has powered their social and economic dominance ever since.

And he gave the military a free ride. Though it is rarely acknowledged, the backbone of support of the Republican Party since Reagan has been the military and their contractors. Because so many military facilities are in Southern states, there has been a seamless blend with the Republican Party’s “Southern strategy” dating from Nixon days. Reagan himself got a free ride from the press, as documented in Mark Hertsgaard’s 1988 book, On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency.

By the time George H.W. Bush became president in 1989, I had settled in at the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Management Service and was learning how the government’s payment, collections, and cash management systems worked. This was the start of large-scale electronic funds transfer in the U.S., with billions of dollars moving daily through the Federal Reserve System’s automated clearinghouse. The Federal Reserve, though owned by its member banks, acted as the federal government’s, “fiscal agent.”

“Cash management” meant that every night the Treasury Department deposited all its cash-on-hand in the Federal Reserve, for which it received interest payments. The banking system then used the money as part of its reserves to collateralize lending. This allowed a huge increase in the funds available for banks to lend, especially when private businesses started to do what Treasury was doing with overnight deposits.

Later these funds would become a source of the huge amounts of credit that banks would use in the 2000s to fuel the housing, commercial real estate, equity, hedge fund, and derivative bubbles. While these practices may have been “legal” in producing massive profits for the banking system, their effects have been catastrophic.

In 1990 I received the Cavallo Foundation Award for Moral Courage in Business and Government for my testimony before the Rogers Commission on the Challenger disaster. It was the nation’s premier recognition for whistleblowers. My supervisor at Treasury seemed embarrassed by my receiving the award but gave me the day off to attend the awards ceremony on Capitol Hill with my family.

From 1985 to 1991 the communist political system of the Soviet Union was collapsing, and the Soviet republics outside Russia were moving toward independence. In June 1991 Boris Yeltsin was elected president of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. The Soviet Union itself dissolved after a reactionary coup failed against the democratization movement led by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. The collapse of the Soviet Union took Gorbachev with it, leaving Yeltsin and Russia standing alone.

Of course those who adulated President Ronald Reagan claimed then, as they do now, that he was the one responsible for “the fall of the Soviet Union.” I’d always had a great respect for the Russian people and its ancient, highly spiritual, culture. I had viewed the Communist revolution as an atrocity against Russia, not as an action taken by it. I had deeply imbibed Russian literature and viewed Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pasternak, and Solzhenitsyn as among the greatest writers in world history.

In the same manner, I saw the revolt against the Soviet government as a spontaneous uprising that reaffirmed the traditional identity of Russia. It was a revolt by, for, and of the Russian people, just as the secession of the other Soviet republics was an expression of the will of those nations. For the followers of a right-wing militarist like Reagan to claim credit was to me an abomination.

Almost simultaneously with events in Russia came the first Iraq War, with that nation invading and occupying Kuwait in 1990 and President George H.W. Bush ordering U.S. ground forces into Iraq in early 1991. The war was over in a few weeks, with U.S. air power attacking and decimating retreating Iraqi soldiers.

By this time I was heartily sick of the Reagan/Bush administrations with their reliance on military force as the heart of U.S. foreign policy, the glorification of war that formed so much of presidential imagery, the collapse of our manufacturing economy during the recession of 1979-83 that was recurring during the Bush presidency, and the constant financial scandals that seemed to go hand-in-hand with Republican Party rule.

President Bill Clinton

I was not sorry when Bill Clinton won the 1992 presidential election, though he was not a progressive Democrat. Of course he might not have done so without Ross Perot’s convenient third party campaign that siphoned off the votes of many erstwhile Bush supporters.

The Clinton years were a relief, because a measure of prosperity had returned, and young people, including my older sons who were finishing college, could get jobs. It was done through a strong dollar which attracted enough foreign investment to produce the dot.com boom. There were abuses, of course. In some cases, entrepreneurs started new technology companies and simply absconded with investors’ cash.

I was very uneasy about the signing by Clinton of legislation for the North American Free Trade Agreement. I had seen the damage done to the U.S. manufacturing economy by the Federal Reserve interest rate policies of the 1980s. NAFTA seemed to promise more of the same. In fact it wrecked family farming in the U.S., as well as in Canada and Mexico, by allowing the undermining of local agriculture by the large agribusiness firms. In short, NAFTA became a disaster. Its dire impact on Mexico contributed strongly to the flood of illegal immigrants heading north.

During the 1990s I had the growing feeling that the public was never told the real reasons for events and decisions and that behind the scenes meetings were held and plans formulated which undermined rather than advanced democracy. This was before the time a few years off when so many commentators would be writing day-in-and-day-out about various “conspiracy theories.”

I had also learned through my experience with the Challenger disaster that the truth could never be found by listening to what was said by government officials, both the career bureaucrats and the ones we elected to represent us. This was because, in line with the ethos of the national security state, not only was critical information withheld as “classified,” the ones who possessed that information were trained professional liars.

This included senators, congressmen, and even presidents, not just spooks from the security agencies like the CIA, NSA, and Defense Intelligence Agency. An example of such lies was the fiction, maintained by Israeli and U.S. officials alike, that Israel was not a nuclear power, even though by the 1990s everyone knew that nation ranked behind only the U.S. and the Soviet Union/Russia in its nuclear arsenal.

Clinton started out looking like he had good intentions, though after his wife Hillary’s health care initiative failed and Republican Newt Gingrich took control of the House of Representatives from the Democrats in the 1994 off-year elections, he became much more tentative. The exception was a few social reforms such as extension of the Earned Income Credit for lower income taxpayers.

Later in his presidency Clinton resisted the efforts of the neocons associated with the Project for a New American Century, successors to the Conservative Movement under Reagan, to launch another war against Iraq, which may have been the factor that led to his impeachment. But he fully cooperated with the imperialists within the U.S. military-industrial complex and NATO in attacking Serbia.

Nothing could have been more confusing than the “Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian War” of 1991-95. The important fact to remember is that it was the policy of the West to prevent any reappearance of the former nation of Yugoslavia by demonizing the Slavic Serbs, thereby weakening Russian influence in the Balkans. The U.S. also tried to exert its influence in the nations that had broken away from the Soviet Union as part of a general policy of encirclement with respect to Russia.

There was also an interesting series of events during Clinton’s presidency that may have been linked with hidden purposes. The first was the 1992 assault on survivalist Randy Weaver and his family at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, by U.S. marshals and FBI agents. Weaver’s wife Vicki and one of their sons were shot and killed over dubious weapons charges.

The second took place in February-April, 1993, when 76 members of the Branch Davidian religious group, including their leader David Koresh, died in a fire when assaulted by federal officials at their compound near Waco, Texas.

Two years later, on April 19, 1995, a bomb in a Ryder truck blew up the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, claiming 168 lives. In the words of Wikipedia:

“Within days after the bombing, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were both in custody for their roles in the bombing. Investigators determined that McVeigh and Nichols were sympathizers of an anti-government militia movement and that their motive was to avenge the government’s handling of the Waco and Ruby Ridge incidents.”

Later McVeigh was executed for his role. During the Waco and Oklahoma City events, Janet Reno was serving as attorney-general of the U.S. The net result of the three incidents was to discredit and render moribund much of the survivalist and armed citizen militia movements.

Clinton was a pro-business Democrat associated with the “centrist” Democratic Leadership Council. During his presidency millions more U.S. manufacturing jobs were outsourced to other nations. Clinton was supported by Wall Street and did nothing to stem the slide toward financier control and dominance of the U.S. economy.

At the end of his presidency the stock market had begun to crash, the dot.com mania was exposed as a bubble, and over $7 trillion in middle-class wealth evaporated. Clinton restructured federal financial reporting which helped him achieve a balanced budget during the last three years of his presidency, along with taxes on stock market capital gains. But by his last days in office, consumer purchasing power was collapsing.

The judgment of writers of history on Clinton has yet to be made, though his image was badly tarnished by the personal circumstances involving Monica Lewinsky that led to his impeachment and trial by the Senate, ending in acquittal. He sought to promote his own cause by publishing his voluminous memoirs, entitled My Life.

I spent the 1990s working hard at my job which was to write regulations, analyze Treasury financial and administrative systems, and set up automated training centers. By now my older sons were attending college—Nat at Dartmouth and Tim at Kenyon. I spent time at home with my younger children and become a neighborhood soccer coach and referee.

Darkness in America

The first decade of the new millennium—the 2000s—produced a catastrophe for the U.S. when the Supreme Court designated my former Yale classmate George W. Bush as president in December 2000.

Democrat Albert Gore had won the popular vote in the November election but was behind in electoral votes. The controversy centered on Florida, where the official tally showed Bush the winner by a narrow margin, but where the Court decided a complete recount might leave the nation with an undecided election for too long. It later turned out that many eligible Florida voters had been improperly excluded from voting by partisan state election officials. Gore’s presidency had been stolen in a fashion even more egregious than what had been done to Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Bush’s first major official action in mid-2001 was to turn Clinton’s $300 billion budget surplus into a $200 billion deficit by cutting taxes for the rich. Then came 9/11. On the morning of September 11, 2001, two separate aircraft crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and a third into the Pentagon. A fourth aircraft was reported to have crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Altogether, 2,973 died.

I was in a two-day-a-week work-at-home program for Treasury and was at my home in rural Virginia where my wife Phyllis did her writing as a journalist for the local newspaper. We had the TV on, heard the reports of the first plane striking the World Trade Center, then saw the second live.

When I went to work the next day at our Treasury office near the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial, colleagues told me they had heard the impact from across the Potomac River at the Pentagon and seen the black smoke rising. In New York, both the Twin Towers had collapsed pancake-style. Later that day, a smaller building in the World Trade Center complex—WTC 7—also collapsed.

That Friday I watched the memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral on TV where President George W. Bush spoke. His tone was so aggressive I felt World War III was about to start. Within a month, the U.S. attacked Afghanistan, the start of an invasion that supposedly was intended to root out the alleged mastermind behind the September 11 attacks, Osama bin Laden. He was, we were told, the head of Al Qaeda, the organization responsible for the atrocities.

On TV the news programs were constantly showing the same footage of hooded figures swinging on overhead bars at a supposed Al Qaeda training camp. By the end of October 2001, Congress had passed the first of two versions of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, a voluminous piece of legislation which, it turned out, no one who voted for it even read. It was an acronym for ‘Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.’

9/11 changed my life. I realized that for the last decade, after I had put my Challenger papers away, carried out my rather boring work for Treasury, and engaged in family and personal pursuits, I had been slumbering while the world around us was undergoing disturbing changes. So I began to study. I read everything I could find that could explain 9/11, realizing as I went along, as did many others, that the official explanation of the events simply could not have happened that way.

Meanwhile, in December 2001, the Enron Corporation went bankrupt after its shares dropped in value from $90 to less than 50 cents. Enron was a “new type” of company that didn’t produce anything but sought to enrich itself by brokering energy supplies from privatized electrical utilities. CEO Kenneth Lay was a political crony of President George W. Bush. When Enron collapsed, thousands of employees and stockholders lost their life savings and pensions.

In 2003 the U.S. invaded Iraq, using off-the-shelf plans. It was obvious that George W. Bush had embarked on the military conquest and occupation of the Middle East and that the only nation supporting us, other than our perpetual ally Great Britain, was Israel. Again, 9/11 was the trigger, though the trumped-up story of Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction was the cover.

Just before the Iraq invasion the Bush administration had created a Department of Homeland Security whose name evoked images of Nazi Germany. Those of us at Treasury marveled at how the Department had been dismembered by the removal of the Bureau of Customs, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the U.S. Secret Service for no evident reason.

It was clear that our nation was being taken over by a dark and alien force, for reasons that were not spoken, under the direction of people not known or named. The public actors were the triumvirate of President George W. Bush, his sneering Vice President Richard Cheney, and his fawning national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Washington, D.C., now became an armed camp. The police presence became markedly more visible, security was stepped up at all government buildings, and new regulations for government IDs and security clearances were announced. At our building on 14th Street, S.W., there were evacuation drills where “essential personnel” were guided to waiting vans for their hypothetical escape to emergency centers, but the remaining 95 percent of employees were directed to stand in a large athletic field across the street.

At our jobs we joked about building security, enumerating all the ways terrorists could sneak weapons past the bumbling rent-a-cops at the doorways. We were also given black “survival” bags containing water, a high-carb “nutrition bar,” a gas mask, etc., in case of a chemical attack, when we were to crouch in windowless rooms in the interior of the building. I had to tell several contractors working for me on a project that they were not eligible to receive survival bags, as they were not government employees.

Another characteristic event where much of the meaning seemed to lie beneath the surface was the federal response to the destruction wrought on the city of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005. The city had been left vulnerable through failure by the federal government to carry out adequate wetland management and restoration in the region and through insufficient investment in levee maintenance and repair. New Orleans was devastated when the hurricane, which was headed toward Texas, took a sudden right turn and made landfall east of the city.

It was the lower-income black citizens of New Orleans who absorbed the brunt of the catastrophe. The government’s response through the Federal Emergency Management Agency was pathetic. Today, as the city is being “rebuilt,” much of the displaced population is unable to return due to the high costs of renting or rebuilding and the lack of jobs and government support. While New Orleans may become a pricey resort and corporate playground, its centuries-old indigenous culture is dead.

I could write a book describing all I read about on the internet during the early to mid-1990s regarding the increasingly alarming conditions in the U.S. The one source of outside information that could not be eliminated at the office was the worldwide web which had to be kept open because so many government administrative systems were now running on internet browsers. One thing was certain—the United States I knew and loved—“the land of the free and the home of the brave”—was under deadly assault.

Monetary Reform and My Retirement

By now my long-dormant interest in monetary reform had also been reawakened. In 2003 I read The Lost Science of Money by Stephen Zarlenga, the director of the American Monetary Institute. I invited Zarlenga to speak at a meeting of Treasury employees that I arranged and began to talk with him about his plans to develop model monetary reform legislation under the heading of the American Monetary Act.

I was becoming part of the small but important monetary reform movement that had begun to emerge in the U.S. as people learned about the ravages of the debt-based monetary system. I began researching U.S. monetary history in greater depth and became especially interested in the use of Greenbacks during and after the Civil War. This was currency spent directly into circulation for payment of government obligations—in a manner similar to C.H. Douglas’s future concept of a National Dividend, without recourse to borrowing or taxation.

The Greenbacks were viewed by the population as having saved the Union during the Civil War and were a key component of the U.S. monetary system until the early 1900s. Unfortunately, the U.S. educational system today is so “dumbed-down” and so much under the control of bureaucratic, corporate, and financial interests, that most people know nothing at all about such key components of our history as the Greenbacks.

Another element of monetary reform I studied was the need for a modern federal infrastructure bank like the Reconstruction Finance Corporation used by the Roosevelt administration during the New Deal to rebuild the nation’s physical economy. Today, as during his lifetime, Roosevelt is blasted as being a socialist or even a communist, because he dared to use the powers of the presidency to pull the nation out of the Great Depression. But the ordinary people of the nation adored Roosevelt for providing them a livelihood when they had been abandoned by the bankers whose selfishness and greed had collapsed the currency and destroyed the purchasing power of the economy.

Under Roosevelt, schools, hospitals, farms, and factories were built through low-cost lending by the RFC. It is true that the nation did not achieve full employment until the wartime spending of World War II, but Roosevelt’s main flaw may have been that he did not go far enough in curbing the power of the financial elite. This allowed them to hang on until they could regain their control of the nation after the post-World War II prosperity ended in the 1960s and 1970s. Still, what Roosevelt accomplished was remarkable.

My interest in infrastructure banking led to a relationship with Dennis Kucinich, congressman from Cleveland, Ohio, and candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2004 and 2008. I first met Dennis in 2003 after I learned he had introduced legislation for a federal infrastructure bank. I visited him in his office and over the next four years gave him numerous briefings on economic and monetary history. This included an all day session in an apartment on Capitol Hill which he called “the best policy briefing I’ve ever heard.”

Also attending that briefing was his young wife Elizabeth, who had been my friend Steve Zarlenga’s assistant at the AMI in Chicago. She met Dennis on a visit with Steve to Washington when he stopped by the congressman’s office to leave a copy of The Lost Science of Money. I was invited to attend Dennis and Elizabeth’s wedding in Cleveland in August 2005 which took place on a grassy mall downtown with the reception next door in the rotunda of the Cleveland City Hall.

By this time my personal life had changed substantially when my wife and I separated. Now living on my own, I decided to pull out my old notes on the Challenger disaster and write the book I had always intended to produce about the tragedy. I wrote steadily from July 2005 to the end of the year. My agent from New York sold it to a publisher within a few weeks.

A publication date of January 2007 was set, which meant I would have to retire because I did not want to still be working for Treasury when a book so critical of the government came out. But by then I would have completed 32 years of service so was eligible for civil service retirement.

I retired on January 4, 2007. For the last time, carrying a cardboard box with my few personal possessions, I walked through the back entrance of the Treasury building near the 14th Street bridge. I emerged into the winter daylight feeling like a man who had just been released from prison. I had worked for Treasury agency for 21 years and 10 months.

My book appeared three weeks later. It was 503 pages in length, not counting the index, and was titled, Challenger Revealed: An Insider’s Account of How the Reagan Administration Caused the Greatest Tragedy of the Space Age. It was the publicity department at Avalon Books which added “How the Reagan Administration Caused” to the title in order to sound more sensational. But it also made the title sound more “in your face” by directing such pointed criticism at an American icon.

The mainstream media ignored the book, even though it did tell more about the actual causes of the disaster than any other book ever written. And the Challenger disaster was one of the most newsworthy events of the 20th century. Thus while a few reviewers gave it high marks—one called it “the most important spaceflight book of the last 20 years”—the weak public reception was a disappointment.

I gave a few book signings, then moved on to other matters—specifically a series of articles I began to write for the internet on economic policy and monetary reform during the months leading up to the financial crisis of 2007-8. While working for Treasury I had already written a series of articles on monetary reform which I published on the internet under the pen name “Gracchus.” I published one of these, entitled “A Declaration of Monetary Independence,” on July 4, 2003, on the website Rense.com. The article began:

“Few people realize that true fiat money spent directly into circulation by the government is the best, most democratic form of currency. The last such money used in the United States was the Greenbacks. The money today which is introduced into circulation by the Federal Reserve is not fiat money. Rather it is a kind of pseudo-money based on a debt pyramid which originates with the national debt.

“All men are created equal, and all men have an equal right to the utilization of money as a social medium of exchange. The greatest crime of our age is the domination and control of money by the private banking industry through the Federal Reserve. The disastrous condition of the U.S. economy today starts and ends with our monetary and fiscal system, as described in the following analysis. As nothing in this sphere can be understood without knowledge of history, the focal point of any meaningful study must be an impartial look at how things have gotten so bad over time. But there are positive elements too which can guide us to a solution.”

I then followed with a monetary history of the U.S., focusing on those periods when methods other than bank lending were used for entering currency into circulation. Of course since the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 had been passed by Congress, turning our monetary system over to the private bankers, there had been no other kind of money except for coinage which, due to inflation, scarcely retained any value.

I also published an article under the Gracchus by-line that was entitled “A New America.” The article outlined the struggle throughout American history between private banking interests and the forces of democracy. I pointed out that today in the 2000s the bankers possessed an ironclad rule over the U.S. economy.

An example of how this rule was maintained was through the current housing bubble, where home prices had inflated out of sight. When the bubble burst, I realized, millions would lose their homes to foreclosure. The root of the problem was the debt-based monetary system.

Another Gracchus article was a lengthy review of Zarlenga’s The Lost Science of Money, which I called, “The New Civic Revolution.” The title was derived from Thomas Jefferson’s campaign slogan from the election of 1800. It was that year when Jefferson overthrew the power of the monetary elite of Great Britain/New York/Europe who were taking control of the nation through their ownership of stock in the First Bank of the United States created by Alexander Hamilton.

Writing About the Present Crisis

Now, having retired, and living alone in College Park, Maryland, I was free to write and publish under my real name. My main internet outlet became the GlobalResearch.ca website which originated in Montreal, Canada. As I continued to write over the next year-and-a-half, my articles were republished on many other websites and sometimes in print magazines. They were thereby available around the world and occasionally were translated into other languages.

When my Challenger book had come out I published an article entitled “Militarization and the Moon-Mars Program: Another Wrong Turn In Space,” stating that:

“The way NASA has started its new moon-to-Mars exploration program, the October 2006 White House announcement of a new national space policy, and subsequent statements by the State Department raise grave concerns about whether a new push to militarize space has begun.”

Next came an article on “Time to Change America by Challenging Economic Fundamentals,” where I discussed Dennis Kucinich’s proposals for a Federal Infrastructure Modernization Bank and the possibility of a basic income guarantee for all citizens. The article concluded:

“What these…proposals have in common is that they show how a developed national economy can pull itself up by its own bootstraps through central control of monetary resources rather than relying on massive deficits or exploitation of other nations through trade. Such resources would be invested or spent for tangible goods and services, not for paper wealth like financial securities. The workers, salary earners, and businesses of the producing economy would be protected from financial bubbles. It’s the way the U.S. became an economic powerhouse in the first place.”

On February 23, 2007, I gave a speech in New York at the annual meeting of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network entitled: “The Basic Income Guarantee and Monetary Reform: A Tale of Two Ideas.” The idea of a guaranteed income for all, regardless of means tests or employment, had been around for along time. During the 1960s, the time of President Johnson’s Great Society and the start of the War on Poverty, a number of proposals were made, including economist Milton Friedman’s suggestion for a negative income tax. But nothing was ever enacted.

Now in the 2000s, the idea of a basic income guarantee was still being advocated, though there was no chance of it’s being passed by Congress due to the enormous national debt, huge expenditures for the military, and the cost of entitlements like Medicare. Speaking to the group in New York, I argued that for a basic income to become reality, monetary reform must come first. I pointed specifically to C.H. Douglas’s ideas of a National Dividend.

I followed with a series of articles that described the theory of the National Dividend in greater detail, including “An Emergency Program of Monetary Reform in the United States.” Here I estimated that the gap between purchasing power and prices in the United States in 2006 amounted to over $3.5 trillion, or about $12,000 for each resident. I argued that this was the amount of money our people were forced unfairly to borrow from the banks because of the lack of a National Dividend that monetized the appreciation of the economy.

By this time I felt a need to provide more detail on my monetary reform ideas and how they applied to different aspects of the economy. I wrote articles on “Monetary Reform and How a National Monetary System Should Work,” “Notes on a Return to the Gold Standard”—I opposed it—“Credit as a Public Utility: The Key to Monetary Reform,” “Monetary Causes of the Immigration Crisis,” and “Poverty in America.” One of the main points I was trying to make was that the Federal Reserve System was nothing more than institutionalized usury.

I also pointed out that monetary reform was not socialism nor was it opposed to real entrepreneurial capitalism. The true capitalist, who may even be the executive in charge of a business, either as owner/proprietor or CEO, is damaged as much as are workers by the dominance of the credit controllers over the economy.

Such a person may have every intention of creating a successful business which produces and delivers a quality product to consumers and where he treats his employees in a fair and humane manner, paying them a wage or salary whereby they can support a family in decent living conditions.

But he can do none of these things well because of the constant pressure from the financial bosses to slash costs, produce short-term profits, reduce the size of his workforce, cut pensions and other benefits, shift operations abroad, and reduce quality by built-in obsolescence, poor product design, and other compromises.

His firm is probably heavily in debt, saddled with significant interest payments, carrying large overhead for R&D, insurance, and legal and accountants’ fees, subjected to government paperwork and regulations, and forced to borrow more just to support daily business operations. He is also at the mercy of inflated prices for materials and utilities when the banks are pumping up the economy and lower sales when they are letting the air out.

Add to this the fact that at any moment he may be bought out at disadvantageous terms by a marauding equity fund or be subjected to a hostile takeover through a leveraged buyout if his stock trades publicly, and his nightmare is complete. Thus our system is not really capitalism at all. It is what C.H. Douglas called “creditism,” where the power of the financiers is backed up by the might of government enforcement.

In this system, every aspect of life is reduced to how much you can pay per month to cover your debt. When this kind of calculation is at the forefront of the awareness of a majority of society, what kind of culture can be expected to result?

I had begun to receive e-mail from all over the world which showed an interest in my ideas, including messages from Social Credit advocates in the British Commonwealth nations. I was also receiving invitations to appear on internet radio interview shows.
In June 2007 the financial crisis leading to the current U.S. recession was starting. Even though a recession had not been officially declared, I pointed out that because money available to working people, defined by the Federal Reserve as M1, had been decreasing for a year, the economy where ordinary people lived and resided was already in trouble.

After prognostications of looming trouble appeared in the Washington Post, a publication which I characterized as “the newsletter of the financial elite,” I published an article entitled, “It’s Official: The Crash of the U.S. Economy Has Begun.” Within a few days it had received over 100,000 “hits.”

Two weeks later I moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, to live with my mother, sister, and niece, and continued writing from my former hometown. It was refreshing and invigorating to walk the streets of the old Virginia capital again.

On July 4, I attended the fireworks display in the Restored Area with 30,000 other people. A few days later I published an article on Dissident Voice entitled, “A Revolutionary Experience” about my experience back at this historic place that once was home. After enumerating the long list of economic problems facing the U.S. I wrote:

“Meanwhile, President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney took time out from prosecuting their Iraq War to visit the Williamsburg area in connection with the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. Queen Elizabeth II, monarch of our “coalition” partner in the Middle East, also paid a call.

“Last November, the American voters elected a Democratic majority to Congress to stop the war. Now the new Congress has continued the funding, including the largest U.S. embassy in the world which is being built in Baghdad. The U.S. military has built permanent bases in Iraq, where they have said they plan to stay as long as we’ve been in Korea — i.e., forever.

“In its funding legislation, Congress also stipulated that to retain our ‘assistance,’ the Iraqi government must pass a ‘hydrocarbon’ law. This would provide U.S. and British oil companies with privileged contracts to tap the country’s gigantic oil reserves.

“Bush’s rating in popularity polls now hovers around thirty percent. That of the new Democratic Congress is deservedly lower — twenty-five percent. Three-quarters of our population believe that America is going in the wrong direction.

“Some of it is the war, but much is economics. Debt among Americans is at an all-time high, and jobs continue to be outsourced to China and other low-wage nations. Middle-class income is in decline. The lack of health insurance is a national scandal. Commentators warn of a possible recession or worse.

“Also on the Fourth of July, the Washington Post reported that the individual managers of unregulated hedge funds which borrow huge sums from the banks to bet on the rise and fall of the economy are earning $1 billion a year. None of the leading candidates for either party for the 2008 presidential nominations seems to have good answers to any of these matters. But they are accepting huge sums of campaign contributions from the Wall Street high rollers.

“Back in Williamsburg the long hot summer has begun. Tomorrow is another day of tourists, actors on the streets pretending to be eighteenth century personalities, the slow creak of carriages, and the clip-clop of horses’ hooves.

“But maybe the spirit and energy of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and George Washington still hover.

“Jefferson once said that, ‘Every generation needs a new revolution.’ Being in Williamsburg against the background of the ominous events elsewhere in the world makes me think that is not a bad idea. President Ronald Reagan had his revolution in the 1980s, when he deregulated the financial industry and set forth the Reagan Doctrine of permanent military engagement in third-world countries.

“Today a new American revolution is overdue — one on behalf of the ordinary people who are seeing their way of life disintegrate.”

I wrote more articles on the financial crisis in the summer and fall of 2007, including “The Crashing U.S. Economy Held Hostage,” “On Market Conditions in the Current Chaotic Environment,” and “Economic Crisis: The U.S. Political Leadership Has Failed.”

I also wrote several longer “thought” pieces, such as “The Morality of Economics: The Key Issue of the 20th Century” and “Market Fundamentalism and the Tyranny of Money.” Another was a tribute to the man I had come to consider the founder of serious thinking on economic democracy in a modern industrial nation: “C.H. Douglas: Pioneer of Monetary Reform.”

Toward the end of the year, the Republican and Democratic primaries for the 2008 presidential nominations were about to start. So I shifted focus to the political sphere, getting my feet wet with a new type of writing that was as much journalism as analysis. This included, “Economic Democracy and a Guide to the 2008 Presidential Election” and “The 2008 Presidential Election: A Revolution or a Bust?”

Meanwhile, a relationship with my readers from around the world was building, with dozens of e-mails arriving each week. Some wanted to share their personal experiences with troubled economic conditions, others passed on links to other articles on similar themes, while some sought personal financial advice. To the latter I could give only general answers and tended to advise people to be cautious in making major life decisions.

Other articles flowed from the headlines of the day: “The Fed’s Bailout: Whose Money Is It?”; “Financial Meltdown: U.S. Treasury Regulatory Reform Proposals are Hapless, Helpless, Hopeless”; and “Pope Benedict XVI’s Visit to Washington.”

Conspiracy?

Finally I arrived at the question I had tried to avoid but which readers were constantly asking about: Was the economic and monetary chaos due to some kind of conspiracy? And if so, was the conspiracy the one so many people speculated about—a plot by a handful of elitists to create a New World Order involving “one-world government,” etc.?

So my thinking turned in that direction, with my answer a qualified, “Yes.” During a six-week period from March to mid-May 2008, I published four articles on the conspiracy issue: “Is an International Financial Conspiracy Driving World Events?”; Crisis in Food Prices Threatens Worldwide Starvation: Is It Genocide?”; “Extraordinary Times, Intentional Collapse, and Takedown of the U.S.A.”; and “Has the Battle for America Begun?”

Many people, perhaps a majority, want to believe the best of their fellow man and give the other fellow the benefit of a doubt. There may be nothing wrong with this. It’s a prescription for living a happy and peaceful life—or is it?

Sooner or later, it seems, our illusions are shattered, our cocoon broken into, our sheltered existence turned upside down. Most people then have one of two reactions: fight or flight. Others may seek to look deeper for the hidden causes. Then events which have seemed so disruptive may become a path to greater self-knowledge.

When studying history, often the only possible way to explain events is through a conspiracy theory; i.e., where two or more persons—or nations—work behind the scenes to steer events in a particular direction, usually to their advantage.

For instance, we know a conspiracy existed for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and other high government officials by a cabal led by John Wilkes Booth in April 1864. We may not know the details of all those involved or what their respective motivations may have been, but we do know there was a conspiracy.

Often it takes a lot of effort for researchers to dig deep enough to ascertain whether a conspiracy really existed. Since the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was passed, a great deal of information has surfaced to make it seem likely that persons connected with the international banking elite, such as Paul Warburg or J.P. Morgan, conspired to take over the U.S. financial system by creating a privately-owned and operated central bank.

With respect to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963, hundreds of books have been written, including many suspected to contain deliberate misinformation. Though much remains unknown, the existence of a conspiracy seems certain. Even the last official government body to examine the evidence, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, concluded in its cautiously-worded 1979 report that Kennedy “was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.”

In the world of warfare and covert intelligence operations almost everything that happens involves a conspiracy—that is, work done in secrecy to achieve a goal. The participants are sworn to silence and documents are destroyed or sealed. That is why some believe that warfare and democracy are inherently inimical to each other.

The discovery of conspiracies tends to follow the scientific method, which is basically a matter of “connecting the dots.” This is how police detective work is done. An event is observed, perhaps a crime. Data-gathering takes place. A hypothesis is formed and tested that seeks to explain the event. Judgment is then rendered, perhaps with a report containing recommendations, perhaps through a criminal or civil trial.

During the past century, with so many wars, revolutions, upheavals, advances in knowledge, technological change, development of powerful weapons, etc., to deprive oneself of the ability to formulate “conspiracy theories” would be to throw overboard a critical tool for analysis and understanding.

For example, why since the 1970s have so many U.S. government policies seemed to tilt in favor of Israel? This has included an enormous amount of foreign aid, the sale of weapons, looking the other way while Israel developed its nuclear arsenal, then, from 2003 to the present, sacrificing so much wealth and the lives of so many American soldiers in the attack on Iraq where Israel was clearly the chief geopolitical beneficiary.

Or, since the start of the disastrous recession of 1979, why have so many policies of the Federal Reserve and the federal government tended to damage U.S. heavy industry, such as steel and railroads, transfer U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas, reduce unionized employment, and lead to the erosion of our physical infrastructure? Who has been making these decisions and why?

Or in the area of public health, why is the U.S. standard of living now declining after decades of gains? Why are so many people without health insurance or enough food to stay healthy? Why is the life span of Americans less than in more than 20 other developed nations? Why do Americans spend so much on prescription medications? Why has federal law enforcement made few substantial gains against illegal drug use? Why has the CIA itself admitted to being involved in the illicit drug trade?

Can it be that in any of these cases, what has happened has been exactly what was intended?

Finally, was there a conspiracy to place George W. Bush in the office of the presidency of the United States in 2000 rather than Albert Gore? Did the U.S. government deliberately look the other way or even plan and participate in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001? Did the Bush administration work hand-in-hand with Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve in creating the housing bubble in order to keep the U.S. economy afloat while the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were being carried out? And is planning going on behind the scenes for the U.S. military to launch an attack on Iran before George W. Bush and Richard Cheney leave office?

I believe the answer to all these questions is “Yes.” Obviously these events have had or will have a significant impact on the lives of many U.S. citizens. Have they, or their representatives in Congress voted on any of these matters? Of course not. Are we then living in a republic such as the Founding Fathers envisioned? No way.

That is how I believe the issue of conspiracy theories should be addressed, through this type of painstaking assessment. The question remains of who is behind it all? Is there such a thing as the Illuminati, the Bilderbergers, or the Olympians? Do they work through the Royal Institute of International Affairs and Tavistock Institute in Great Britain and the Council on Foreign Relations and Trilateral Commission in the U.S.?

If these or similar groups are behind current events, what are they planning to do next? And can they be stopped? If so, how?

What Does the Future Hold?

My own opinion is that what we are seeing is the cumulative activity of an entity we might call the Anglo-American Empire, as discussed and defined by Professor Carroll Quigley in such books as The Anglo-American Establishment and Tragedy and Hope. I believe this conspiracy has been active in trying to exert control over what today is the United States at least since passage by the British Parliament of the Currency Act of 1764. The purpose of that act was to exert financial control over the American colonies by taking away their right to print their own currency. A depression followed that led to the Revolution.

Since then the empire has worked mainly through the banking system and has attempted to exert control over the U.S. through the First (1791-1811) and Second (1816-1836) Banks of the United States, the National Banking System (1863-1913), and the Federal Reserve System (1913-present). There were several strong U.S. presidents who saw what the banks were trying to do and worked to try to prevent it. These were primarily Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy. Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy were assassinated.

The goal of the British imperial planners, as expressed by Cecil Rhodes in his Will of 1877—“the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British Empire”—has largely been accomplished. The U.S. and its youth became the “muscle” which won World Wars I and II and which, it appears, is now being groomed for World War III against Russia and China. In their essence, all three are petroleum wars fought by the U.S. on behalf of the financial controllers, overseen in turn by the old British/European nobility.

It has been apparent that the goal of this imperial establishment has been to work on both sides of the Atlantic to destroy the ability of the U.S. to perform as the world’s greatest industrial democracy and turn it into a forested wasteland, with population centers on the two coasts, while supplying the military personnel needed for foreign conquest. This is to be accomplished at the same time the population of the rest of the world is reduced by mass global starvation, a circumstance which is underway as this is being written. This phase of the plan—world population reduction—was laid out by the Club of Rome decades ago.

Tens of thousands of U.S. financiers, corporate executives, politicians, scholars, administrators, analysts, military officers, subversives, torturers, and the like work for the empire at varying levels of intention and consciousness. Many of these are dead to conscience. Many are criminals. Some still agonize over their compromised behavior. Some are monsters of evil and depravity.

But something has gone wrong with the plan. According to details provided by the most knowledgeable researchers, the scheduled destruction of the U.S. has not proceeded as it should have. The reason is that people have awakened to what is going on. They have done this mainly through the internet, which had originally been invented and implemented as the most advanced means ever devised of spying on the population.

The internet has become essential for business but is also the American samizdat, similar to the underground system of passing forbidden literature among the intellectuals of the former Soviet Union. Still, without the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech, the internet could easily be shut down for political discourse. It is being done in Canada today by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which fishes the internet under the guise of prohibiting “hate speech.” One woman, for instance, was allegedly charged when she wrote on an internet chat room that homosexuals should not be allowed to adopt children.

The 2008 Presidential Election

As explained in my November 11, 2007, article, “Crisis in the U.S.: “Plan B”?”, it appeared that the empire had decided to allow the 2008 presidential election to proceed and replace George W. Bush with someone a little more mellow. I wrote that the decision appeared to have been made, “that the sway of the Bush/Cheney regime must end and that some semblance of normality should be restored, at least in appearance, by making Hillary Clinton the next President.”

As the primaries began in early January and continued through “Super Tuesday” on February 5, 2008, Senator John McCain emerged as the Republican nominee-designate. McCain had all the qualifications of an imperial candidate: a big name, an undeserved reputation as a “maverick,” no discernible principles except to fall in line for permanent worldwide warfare, total commitment to Israel, and association with no significant legislative initiatives that could render him controversial, etc. Initially he lacked the support of the Christian right but has been making up for lost time by uttering a variety of extremist statements, such as his call to keep a military force in Iraq for 100 years.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton enjoyed early front-runner status and the number one slot on Chris Matthews’ “Power Rankings” on his MSNBC show Hardball. Such highly qualified candidates as Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Dennis Kucinich were marginalized by the media and ended up dropping out. But a funny thing happened on the way to Hillary’s coronation. Illinois Senator Barack Obama was first out of the gate by winning the Iowa caucuses and later took the lead in the delegate count.

Of course Obama was already being groomed for some future role. Otherwise he never would have been allowed to speak so prominently at the 2004 Democratic Party convention. But it may just have been for him to become this generation’s showcased black politician.

Now, to everyone’s surprise, he seemed to be capturing the mood of the electorate who wanted CHANGE. At a minimum that seemed to mean someone who was not George W. Bush, but maybe it was more than that. So Obama turned Hillary’s claim to be the more experienced candidate into a negative by making her look like a Washington insider, and he was off to the races.

Somewhere along the way, however, Obama, the former Chicago street organizer, seemed to begin tilting toward the empire. He made a start when he renounced the support of Nation of Islam’s brilliant and influential leader Louis Farrakhan, then showed what I think was a lack of principle by dumping his former minister Jeremiah Wright. He rapidly distanced himself from Wright once the media turned on the heat over the pastor’s past sermons. Later, Obama and his wife Michelle resigned from the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago from which Wright had retired and where he had married the Obamas in 1992.

Obama has taken a number of occasions lately to key his rhetoric to the satisfaction of the Israel lobby and threaten force against Iran and Pakistan. He no longer says anything sympathetic about the plight of the Palestinians, as he sometimes did a year ago, though, according to published reports, his donations from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee are still only a third of Hillary’s.

The strangest thing about Obama, though, is his mythologizing about Osama Bin Laden and how it was a “strategic mistake” for the U.S. to attack Iraq rather than track down the supposed 9/11 mastermind in his mountainous lair in Central Asia.

We could speculate that both McCain and Hillary, from their reticence on the subject, know that Bin Laden’s role in 9/11 was a myth, as does George W. Bush, who appears to be aware he is lying whenever he speaks on the subject. Obama, by contrast, seems to speak with conviction when he says he plans to complete the job of using American military might to root out the great miscreant who is still hiding, he alleges, in the mountains of western Pakistani.

To me this seems like opportunistic cynicism by someone who may be pandering for power.

Obama is also on thin ice in his approach to relations with Russia. While he has avoided anti-Russian rhetoric more than either McCain or Clinton, he is being advised by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who advocates a hostile posture. Such a stance is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing. In fact we should be making an alliance with Russia, which under Vladimir Putin is no longer a communist nation but a democracy, despite the propaganda of the financier-controlled press.

Russia is also a highly spiritual nation, though its spirituality went underground for much of the 20th century. Today the Russian Orthodox Church is making a major resurgence. In a televised Christmas message on January 7, 2008, Putin said, “The Russian Orthodox Church contributes to the promotion of moral values in society. One should not completely draw a line between the culture and the church. Of course by law in our country the church is separate from the state. But in the soul and the history of our people it’s all together. It always has been and always will be.”

We should be looking to Russia as our friend and ally rather than our enemy. By seeking advice from imperial mastermind Brzezinski, who joined with David Rockefeller in the 1970s in forming the Trilateral Commission, Obama appears that he doesn’t seem to understand this at all. Someone needs to tell him that the most effective way possible for the U.S. to break away from its disastrous subservience to the Anglo-American Empire would be through a genuine alliance with the great continental land powers of the world, including Russia, China, and even Brazil.

Meanwhile, Obama’s economic prescriptions are anemic. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote they don’t come close to Hillary Clinton’s in terms of a progressive agenda. Still, the only substantive structural change either has proposed is Obama’s suggestion on his website for a federal infrastructure bank similar to the Dodd and Kucinich proposals. Obama has also spoken of the need to rebuild the economy “from the bottom up” and to “increase incomes.”

Obama is correct, but he has not identified the causes of the enormous overhang of individual, public, and corporate debt on the economy. He has not spoken of the need to get rid of the debt-based monetary system run by the Federal Reserve as has Republican candidate Ron Paul. He has failed to challenge the financial predators of Wall Street who have become the Democratic Party’s most dedicated contributors. And he has not recognized the fact that our producing economy has been wrecked by the free-market fundamentalism of the last generation and that enormous changes must be made to recover. To do so, of course, would require a clean break with the empire he seems to have been sucking up to as the price of success.

Some say that Obama is just getting his political ticket punched, or is trying not to upset the geopolitical applecart too much, and that when he becomes president he will abandon the campaign rhetoric and embrace the changes he claims to envision. But would Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, or JFK have made as many compromises ?

In the meantime, the forces of empire will be doing everything possible to sink their talons deeper into Obama’s backside. Wall Street donors will throw money at him. John McCain will continue to foment on the right to push Obama deeper into Israel’s camp, so that Obama may be forced to compromise himself further to preserve as much as he can of the Democratic Party’s traditional support among Jewish voters.

The strategy of the empire will be to assure that Obama, if elected, will continue to extend the Middle Eastern wars, as our military, with Israel and AIPAC leading the cheers, pushes deeper into the Asian heartland. It’s war, above all, the empire desires, because with peace, people come to their senses. With war, they can easily be controlled. And war is an immense source of profit, as are illicit drugs.

If he’s elected, Obama’s choice will be World War III or not. With it, America may die; with peace, we can rebuild our troubled land. I believe it’s as simple as that. The objective of the controllers may be to assure that by the time Obama is elected he has already made that choice the way they desire.

Spiritual Warfare?

As Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” We truly seem to be at a spiritual crossroads in the world today.

It’s really up to us. Is man a being with a soul destined to be free? Is he created in the image of God? Is it true, as Jesus said in speaking of every man and woman, that “I and my Father are one?” Or is a human being a piece of dirt, a thing to be used, abused, then thrown away, a slave to the biggest, baddest, meanest, most cunning and violent among us?”

We know how Thomas Jefferson and other great men and women from our past answered this question. How will we answer it?

And will it really take that many? Our nation was created by a handful of patriots. They say that three percent of the population fought the British. Perhaps it’s true, as the Bible says, that one good man can save a city.

Meanwhile, it’s the imperial controllers who are the real slaves, the ones most in bondage to materialism and fear. It’s said that in the old American South the suicide rate was higher among the masters than the slaves, because the slaves had religion, music, and knew how to work. The masters had only a whip.

Russia is also a nation that faced these issues. During the Middle Ages, that nation was repeatedly invaded by Mongols and other steppe dwellers from Asia who laid waste to the Orthodox culture, wiped out cities, massacred civilians, collected tribute, and carried off slaves. If you rebelled they killed you.

In The Third Rome: Holy Russia, Tsarism, and Orthodoxy, Dr. Matthew Raphael Johnson attributes the inner strength of the Russian people to their practice of hesychasm, or the inner prayer [of] the heart. This prayer was repeated as a spiritual practice in a way similar to the mental repetition of the Lord’s Prayer by some Western Christians.

Or maybe the answer lies in the Book of Job. Once Satan came to God after “walking up and down in the earth” and wagered he could break the spirit of Job, God’s dearest servant. God allowed Job to be tempted by misfortune, but only for a time. Today Satan proudly walks the earth, perhaps in a tailored suit, sometimes in robes of royalty, maybe even in preacher’s garb, tempting us to believe that this world of materialism is real and has power.

Our task may simply be to see it is not so.

Conclusion

I don’t know how long I will stay in Williamsburg before the wider world beckons again. One thing that has disappointed me has been the actions of those in charge of the College of William and Mary. Sometime after I graduated, the college acquired a president who decided to make it “the most prestigious small university in America.” They also named as successive chancellors two of the most infamous denizens of the Anglo-American Empire.

The first was Great Britain’s former prime minister, the “Queen of Privatization,” Margaret Thatcher. She was Ronald Reagan’s mentor in how to allow a national economy to be sacked by the financiers and later pressured George H.W. Bush to invade Iraq. One of her advisors was Victor Rothschild, the Third Baron Rothschild, who had bankrolled the creation of Israel in 1948.

After Thatcher came Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s National Security Adviser and Secretary of State, whose main function in office seemed to be to threaten, attack, and overthrow the governments of developing nations. 1989 alumnus Jerett Decker wrote:

“I am dismayed by the appointment of Henry Kissinger as chancellor. There is significant evidence that he was complicit in crimes in Chile in 1973, as well as other extra-legal acts throughout the world. The case against him grows stronger with each new tranche of government documents released to the public through declassification.

“As the full truth emerges, Kissinger is likely to be remembered in American history as a figure on par with Henry Wallace on the left (who visited the Soviet gulag at Magadan during the Stalin era and praised Stalin’s ‘humanitarianism’) or J. Edgar Hoover on the right (whose agents illegally bugged and blackmailed Martin Luther King and urged him to commit suicide).

“There is no gentle way to put it: the evidence suggests that Kissinger will be remembered as a criminal.”

At one point the William and Mary president set as an objective the achievement of Rhodes Scholar status for some of their students and succeeded. Two of its most notable graduates are TV comic Jon Stewart and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. But when I offered to come and speak to young writers in the English Department about my book Challenger Revealed, they didn’t answer my e-mails.

I’m afraid William and Mary has become an imperial hotbed. I can hear my own mentor Thomas Jefferson stirring in his grave!

But life goes on. In early May I attended my son Fred’s graduation at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, where he received a degree in engineering science and mechanics and where his sister Adele had also graduated. Fred will be staying to earn a master’s degree through a research fellowship in composite materials.

Over the years Fred and I have had many discussions of the role technology plays in today’s life. One thing we discussed was when the technology might become available to fuel cars with water by extracting and burning hydrogen. This would also make it possible to create small-scale electrical generators for home, business, or farm use that would free us from fossil fuels as well as from the electrical grid.

Fred had been one of the students attending class in Norris Hall on April 16, 2007, when a deranged shooter killed 32 people and wounded many others before taking his own life. Fred was one of those who jumped from a second storey window while a classroom door was being blocked by Professor Livriu Librescu, one of the teachers who died in the assault.

Fred suffered a minor ankle fracture from his fall. Later that year he ran in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., as part of a Virginia Tech team raising money for the April 16 benefit fund. This led to his decision to begin training for the Ironman Triathlon scheduled for November 2008 in Panama City, Florida. After his graduation he competed in a Half-Ironman in Orlando.

Fred says the athletic activity is playing a big part in his emotional recovery. He seems to have inherited his father’s predilection for getting mixed up in horrifying events.

Last week in Williamsburg we had a visit from a film crew from the Scottish Documentary Institute in Edinburgh headed by Swedish filmmaker Maja Borg and producer Sonja Henrici. They are shooting a feature-length documentary on worldwide economic reform entitled, Future for Sale. The crew shot footage of my elderly mother guiding Maja on a tour of the Restored Area, where she pointed out that Williamsburg once was a flourishing 18th century community without a single bank.

On a porch behind the Raleigh Tavern, then later in my mother’s dining room, they videoed Maja interviewing me about monetary reform. I focused on Douglas’s theory of the “gap” and how to fill it with a National Dividend.

I also pointed out the urgency of rebuilding our manufacturing and agricultural economy. I said this could be done if we had a correct definition of credit as the productive potential of the people of a nation instead of its being the private property of the banks.

Credit should be viewed as part of the public commons and viewed as a public utility like electricity, water, and clean air. I added that availability of credit should be a basic human right, a component of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Abuses of credit by the private banking industry, including leveraged investments for equity, hedge, commodity, and derivative funds, should be outlawed.

The previous week I had given four separate presentations at the “Building a New World” conference of the Prout World Assembly at Radford University in Radford, Virginia. I keynoted the session on “Fighting for Economic Democracy” and took part in panels on “The End of Empire,” “Monetary Reform,” and “No More Income Tax.” Also on-stage that weekend were such notables as Cindy Sheehan and David Swanson. At the conference I pointed out that the National Dividend could be used to rebuild local economies through revitalization of family farming and urban small business. Also present was Steven Shafarman, who advocates a similar type of dividend which he calls Citizens Dividends in his new book, Peaceful Positive Revolution.

At the conference I was able to announce that my new book entitled We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform will be published this fall by Tendril Press of Aurora, Colorado. I’m also starting a new website with my publicist and partner Susan Boskey. And I’ve been invited to Australia’s Sunshine Coast to give the keynote address next spring at the Heartfire Festival, a benefit for children harmed by war that will be sponsored by Avante Films.

This week I’m being interviewed on four different radio programs by Alex Jones, Kevin Barrett, Carol Brouillet, and the hosts of The Power Hour, Joyce Riley and Dave von Kleist. In these interviews I’m expressing my confidence that the worldwide monetary reform movement, as an expression of basic human decency, has an answer to many of the problems the world faces today. Within the United States, at least, and perhaps elsewhere, monetary reform will play a key part in the vast changes to come.

Copyright 2008 by Richard C. Cook

Richard C. Cook is a former U.S. federal government analyst, whose career included service with the U.S. Civil Service Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Carter White House, NASA, and the U.S. Treasury Department. His articles on economics, politics, and space policy have appeared on numerous websites. His book on monetary reform, entitled We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform, will be published soon by Tendril Press. He is also the author of Challenger Revealed: An Insider’s Account of How the Reagan Administration Caused the Greatest Tragedy of the Space Age, called by one reviewer, “the most important spaceflight book of the last twenty years. His Challenger website is at www.richardccook.com. A new economics website at www.RealSustainableLiving.com is upcoming with partner Susan Boskey, author of The Quality Life Plan: 7 Steps to Uncommon Financial Security. Susan’s website is at www.AlternativeFinancialNow.com. To get on their mailing list, for questions and comments, or to pre-purchase copies of Richard’s new book, please write EconomicSanity@gmail.com

Pens and Swords – How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

May 30, 2008

Pens and Swords – How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Dandelion Salad

by Jim Miles
Global Research, May 29, 2008

Review of Marda Dunsky’s book

In an era when American foreign policy has reached the pinnacle of unilateralism by invading other countries pre-emptively, threatening others with nuclear annihilation, and abrogating in doing so many decades if not more than a century of international law development, Marda Dunsky’s book Pens and Swords presents a very strong, well-referenced argument illuminating the bias within American media reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That bias develops under two main themes – a lack of historical context, and a lack of recognition of the effects of U.S. foreign policy. Along with those two major themes, are the related ideas of weaknesses in analysing and criticizing sources, and in not providing references for what discussion there is as the arguments already fit the generally accepted ‘Washington’ consensus. Other ideas that accompany the discussion are the use of language that biases an argument, and the desire for the “amorphous if not impossible standard of objectivity.”

Overview

The book is well organized and well developed. It begins with an introduction that presents a brief summary of some current communication theory. This is followed by a discussion of the “policy mirror” between the Washington consensus and the media. Next is a limited presentation of historical context – the nakba, international law and the right of return – in order that the reader does have some background knowledge, leading into Dunsky’s first discussion on reporting on the Palestinian refugee story. From there the main presentation works through discussions of media reporting on Israeli settlements, the violence of the second intifada, the ‘war at home’ or how the local media is perceived by various sectors. The two final sections “In the Field” and “Toward a New way of Reporting…” carry significant and well-reasoned perspectives on what is happening and what could or should be happening.

There are several points along the way that deserve emphasis for their clarity and validity.

Communication theory

First is the communication theory, which defines mainstream media as “outlets that are in harmony with the prevailing direction of influence in culture at large.” In essence, “to a significant extent American mainstream journalism on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict toes the line of U.S. Mideast policy.” She discusses three theoretical constructs – hegemony, indexing, and cascading – that emphasize these points respectively: “the American mainstream media…operate in the same social and economic framework as government;” “The range of discourse is exceedingly narrow…because [it] emanates from an equally narrow range of sources;” and “the mainstream media determines the level of understanding that is possible for the public and the policy makers alike.” If that does not give the mainstream media thoughts for concern, then ironically, these definitions become all that more powerful.

Refugees

The refugee problem is defined as “a root cause of the Israeli-Palestine conflict” and to omit it from context “is to omit an important part of the story.” Dunsky briefly outlines the nakba as recently viewed by ‘revisionist’ historians who deny the official Israeli narrative while using information in a large part garnered from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) archives themselves. While these ideas “depart markedly from the familiar narrative” there are other gaps in the narrative, one of the more important being “the body of international law and consensus on refugee rights in general, and Palestinian refugee rights in particular.”[1] Accompanying this is the right of return which the Israelis claim for the Jewish people of the world, but that is denied to the Palestinians in contravention of international law.

Context as a theme is obviously a major issue for any discussion of the refugee problem. American media “routinely denies its audience the contextual tools with which to assess important historical and political aspects of the issue,” and it “largely mirrors U.S. Mideast policy,” remaining “explicitly tilted in favor of Israel in the pursuit of what is officially defined as the U.S. national interest in the region.” News reports “relate what can be seen and heard, to the exclusion or relevant contextual background.” [italics in original] The message that does come across is that of the “refugees’ own transigence and the machinations of their leaders, the Arab states, and the United Nations.” While it seems almost too obvious to state, Dunsky sums up her arguments on the refugee reporting saying “if Americans had a fuller contextual understanding of the key issues…via the mainstream media, they would be better equipped to challenge U.S. Mideast policy.”

Obvious yes, but it also signifies that American culture, American society perhaps does not want to disturb its own beliefs in its exceptionalism and perfectionism that is their gift (even if by the barrel of a gun) to the world. To admit these failings of context, to examine the context in light of foreign policy would be greatly disturbing to a society educated (or inculcated) about its own greatness, exceptionalism, perfectionism, and love of democracy and freedom. And so it should be.

Israeli settlements

Similar arguments are brought forth concerning the Israeli settlements. A brief background set of information ties in the U.S. $3 billion in aid each year that supports the ability to continue the settlements. Dunsky argues, and supports, the idea that “reporting on the settlement issue bears a striking similarity to reporting on the …refugee question,” with “more weight usually given to Israeli claims and little or no reference to international law and consensus.” Also, “dramatic description is substituted for thoroughgoing analytical reporting.” And more in the same category of context: “Contextually and substantively…the stories made little or no reference to international law and consensus or to U.S. aid to Israel.”

The media references to the Israeli side generally emphasize the perspective “that Palestinian violence must be halted before negotiations can resume,” without the context of history and the idea that the very act of settlement and “its attendant military defense have been a root cause of that violence.” Frequent comments run through the text, emphasizing and referencing the lack of context and of international law and consensus in the media reports that are studied.

The intifada

The height of the intifada violence coincided with American rhetoric and anguish after 9/11 and provided a neat tie in for the Israeli government and the IDF to try and capture the argument as one of terrorism, leaving aside completely the historical context and using the American perspective of “us against them,” of democracy versus demagoguery, of “they hate us for what we are.” For the media “political discourse focused entirely on themes that were emotional, moral, and patriotic,” providing a “period of congruence for the United States and Israel.” The IDF incursions into the West Bank relied on the concept that “the campaign was to root out the terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank.”

Palestine was no match for the well-organized Israeli “propaganda battlefield” and as events continued, “Arafat and the PA were linked to terror” as “repeatedly impressed on U.S. government officials and the American public through the media.” Another feature of these reports is what “amounted to transparent Israeli advocacy for a U.S. war in Iraq” as well as connections through to Iran. In sum, Dunsky says

“American journalists were operating within the sphere of cultural congruence – a comfort zone where journalistic scepticism and balance were often overshadowed or displaced by the political discourse of the Bush administration, in which a “war on terror” could be prosecuted by the United States, and, by extension, its closest ally.”

Ego and Access

The chapter “In the Field” provides an intriguing perspective on the reporters/journalists (I put those two descriptors together, not really sure where the lines between a reporter and a journalist meet or overlap or coincide) themselves. The section could be subtitled “Ego and Access” as those are the two main themes in the first set of self-reports.

Dunsky allows the reporters to speak for themselves and some of what they say is self-incriminating as to why there is a bias and lack of context. It would seem that the correspondents are well aware of media competition in the sense that they need a daily story. They worry about how the editors will deal with their report and they need a story with a different view to gain publication and so that their peers will take notice: “to attempt unfiltered reporting…not only is often discouraged by newsroom culture but can also result in swift and unstinting audience censure.” That is the ego part. The access part is the consistent iteration that access to Israeli sources was very easy and well organized and that communication with the Palestinians required more effort. That could be – although denied by the correspondents – because “most…choose to live among Israelis in West Jerusalem because of its higher standard of living rather than among Palestinians.” It is a hard denial to make, that their place of living has “had little or no effect on their actual work product.” If they have no sense of context, perhaps also their sense of place is…hmm…misplaced.

Before getting into these self-examinations, examinations that reveal all too much about ego and access, Dunsky reiterates her own two “key underlying contexts: the impact of U.S. policy on the trajectory of the conflict; and the importance of international law and consensus regarding the key issues of Israeli settlement and annexation policies and the right of return of Palestinian refugees.” As a result the journalistic product “frames media discourse on the conflict in a way that reinforces and supports rather than scrutinizes and challenges U.S. policy that in many ways undergirds it.”

Context and media failure.

The final two writers provide a much clearer analysis of the world they lived in. Gillian Findlay, ABC correspondent from September 1997 to June 2002 says “when we did try to provide context, it became such a controversial thing, not only among viewers but also within the news organization.” She was surprised by “how little our audience understood about the roots of the conflict,” and says it is a “cop out in reporting” to say there is nothing the U.S. administration can do. Speaking more globally she hits upon another truth about American media, that “the lack of context applies to so much reporting these days. It’s not just this issue.”

Chris Hedges worked for the New York Times and the Dallas Morning News off and on from January 1988 to 2003. He says “Arab culture is incomprehensible to us because we’ve never taken the time to understand it. It’s a great failing of the press that when something is incomprehensible to us, we certify it as incomprehensible to everyone.” He continues this idea when discussing the suicide bombers, “we don’t understand the slow drip of oppression” that created them and further “We’ve never taken the time to understand them….[a] fundamental failure of the coverage of Palestinians.” As for the press as an institution he says, “bureaucracies…are driven by ambition and have very little moral sense. That’s true of every institution….It’s not conducive of their own advancement.”

All of which leaves me wondering, as a critical reader, what exactly are the credentials of the writers/reporters/journalists who are in the field. Certainly being there provides them with first hand observation of current events, but do they have the academic background to understand the socio-political history of the region? Are they able and willing to look at what for me is the prime contradiction in the vast majority of American and Israeli foreign affairs and those who report on it – that what you do speaks so loud I can’t hear what you are saying? That democracy does not arrive at the barrel of gun, peace does not come from pre-emptive invasions and occupations, the victim cannot be blamed for the ongoing violence against the intruders, and international law deems it all illegal? More simply put, people, nations, do not like being occupied and suppressed, and no rhetoric of any kind will make it acceptable except to an elite few cronies of the occupiers. Are the reporters able and willing to step outside of the Washington consensus, willing to take the time to provide more background information for themselves as well as their readers, or will the corporate agenda over-rule any attempts at providing context, a context that more often than not goes against the grain of the Washington consensus?

The final argument is on objectivity, seen in the introduction as an “amorphous if not impossible standard,” another argument that comes back to all media tasks being “superfluous as long as one remains within the presuppositional framework of the doctrinal consensus,” with writers well aware of “rewards that accrue to conformity and the costs of honest dissidence.”

I would hope that all journalists/writers would take the time to read Pens and Swords. The books arguments are well presented and well referenced, and the work as a whole should be placed on every journalists’/reporters’ shelf alongside similar works by other well referenced and questioning media critics [2] For any journalist who is actually wishing to pursue truth rather than ego and access, consideration and action on the ideas presented in Dunsky’s work would be a great place to start. Pens and Swords is also a great read for all mass media audiences to better inform themselves and to be able to criticize and analyze the writers/producers and their products more intelligently as well as to analyze their own place and views within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

[1] for an easily read comprehensive understanding of international law, see Michael Byers’ War Law, Understanding International Law and Armed Conflict, Douglas & McIntyre, Toronto, 2005.

[2] ]Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent (2002), and Falk and Friel Israel-Palestine on Record (2007).

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War Immemorial Day – No Peace for Militarized U.S.

May 29, 2008

War Immemorial Day – No Peace for Militarized U.S.

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Memorial Day is not actually a day to pray for U.S. troops who died in action but rather a day set aside by Congress to pray for peace.   The 1950 Joint Resolution of Congress which created Memorial Day says:  “Requesting the President to issue a proclamation designating May 30, Memorial Day, as a day for a Nation-wide prayer for peace.” (64 Stat.158).

Peace today is a nearly impossible challenge for the United States.  The U.S. is far and away the most militarized country in the world and the most aggressive.  Unless the U.S. dramatically reduces its emphasis on global military action, there will be many, many more families grieving on future Memorial days.

The U.S. spends over $600 billion annually on our military, more than the rest of the world combined.  China, our nearest competitor, spends about one-tenth of what we spend.  The U.S. also sells more weapons to other countries than any other nation in the world.

The U.S. has about 700 military bases in 130 countries world-wide and another 6000 bases in the US and our territories, according to Chalmers Johnson in his excellent book NEMESIS: THE LAST DAYS OF THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC (2007).

The Department of Defense (DOD) reports nearly 1.4 million active duty military personnel today.   Over a quarter of a million are in other countries from Iraq and Afghanistan to Europe, North Africa, South Asia and the rest of the Western Hemisphere. The DOD also employs more than 700,000 civilian employees.

The US has used its armed forces abroad over 230 times according to researchers at the Department of the Navy Historical Center.  Their publications list over 60 military efforts outside the U.S. since World War II.

While the focus of most of the Memorial Day activities will be on U.S. military dead, no effort is made to try to identify or remember the military or civilians of other countries who have died in the same actions.  For example, the U.S. government reports 432 U.S. military dead in Afghanistan and surrounding areas, but has refused to disclose civilian casualties.  “We don’t do body counts,” General Tommy Franks said.

Most people know of the deaths in World War I – 116,000 U.S. soldiers killed.  But how many in the U.S. know that over 8 million soldiers from other countries and perhaps another 8 million civilians also died during World War II?

By World War II, about 408,000 U.S. soldiers were killed.  World-wide, at least another 20 million soldiers and civilians died.

The U.S. is not only the largest and most expensive military on the planet but it is also the most active.  Since World War II, the U.S. has used U.S. military force in the following countries:

1947-1949 Greece.  Over 500 U.S. armed forces military advisers were sent into Greece to administer hundreds of millions of dollars in their civil war.

1947-1949 Turkey.  Over 400 U.S. armed forces military advisers sent into Turkey,

1950-1953 Korea.  In the Korean War and other global conflicts 54,246 U.S. service members died.

1957-1975 Vietnam.  Over 58,219 U.S. killed.

1958-1984 Lebanon.  Sixth Fleet amphibious Marines and U.S. Army troops landed in Beirut during their civil war. Over 3000 U.S. military participated. 268 U.S. military killed in bombing.

1959 Haiti. U.S. troops, Marines and Navy, land in Haiti and joined in support of military dictator Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier against rebels.

1962 Cuba.  Naval and Marine forces blockade island.

1964 Panama.  U.S. troops stationed there since 1903. U.S. troops used gunfire and tear gas to clear US Canal Zone.

1965-1966 Dominican Republic. U.S. troops land in Dominican Republic during their civil war – eventually 23,000 were stationed in their country.

1969-1975 Cambodia. U.S. and South Vietnam jets dropped more than 539,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia – three times the number dropped on Japan during WWII.

1964-1973 Laos. U.S. flew 580,000 bombing runs over country – more than 2 million tons of bombs dropped – double the amount dropped on Nazi Germany.  US dropped more than 80 million cluster bombs on Laos – 10 to 30% did not explode leaving 8 to 24 million scattered across the country.  Since the war stopped, two or three Laotians are killed every month by leftover bombs – over 5700 killed since bombing stopped.

1980 Iran.  Operation Desert One, 8 U.S. troops die in rescue effort.

1981 Libya.  U.S. planes aboard the Nimitz shot down 2 Libyan jets over Gulf of Sidra.

1983 Grenada. U.S. Army and Marines invade, 19 U.S. killed.

1983 Lebanon.  Over 1200 Marines deployed into country during their civil war. 241 U.S. service members killed in bombing.

1983-1991 El Salvador.  Over 150 US soldiers participate in their civil war as military advisers.

1983  Honduras.  Over 1000 troops and National Guard members deployed into Honduras to help the contra fight against Nicaragua.

1986 Libya. U.S. Naval air strikes hit hundreds of targets – airfields, barracks, and defense networks.

1986 Bolivia. U.S. Army troops assist in anti-drug raids on cocaine growers.

1987 Iran.  Operation Nimble Archer.  U.S. warships shelled two Iranian oil platforms during Iran-Iraq war.

1988 Iran. US naval warship Vincennes in Persian Gulf shoots down Iranian passenger airliner, Airbus A300, killing all 290 people on board.  US said it thought it was Iranian military jet.

1989 Libya. U.S. Naval jets shoot down 2 Libyan jets over Mediterranean

1989-1990 Panama.  U.S. Army, Air Force, and Navy forces invade Panama to arrest President Manuel Noriega on drug charges.  U.N. puts civilian death toll at 500.

1989 Philippines. U.S. jets provide air cover to Philippine troops during their civil war.

1991 Gulf War. Over 500,000 U.S. military involved.  700 plus U.S. died.

1992-93 Somalia. Operation Provide Relief, Operation Restore Hope, and Operation Continue Hope.  Over 1300 U.S. Marines and Army Special Forces landed in 1992.  A force of over 10,000 US was ultimately involved.   Over 40 U.S. soldiers killed.

1992-96 Yugoslavia.  U.S. Navy joins in naval blockade of Yugoslavia in Adriatic waters.

1993 Bosnia. Operation Deny Flight.  U.S. jets patrol no-fly zone, naval ships launch cruise missiles, attack Bosnian Serbs.

1994 Haiti. Operation Uphold Democracy.  U.S. led force of 20,000 troops invade to restore president.

1995 Saudi Arabia. U.S. soldier killed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia outside US training facility.

1996 Saudi Arabia.  Nineteen U.S. service personnel die in blast at Saudi Air Base.

1998 Sudan. Operation Infinite Reach.  U.S. cruise missiles fired at pharmaceutical plant thought to be terrorist center.

1998 Afghanistan.  Operation Infinite Reach.  U.S. fires 75 cruise missiles on four training camps.

1998 Iraq. Operation Desert Fox.  U.S. Naval bombing Iraq from striker jets and cruise missiles after weapons inspectors report Iraqi obstructions.

1999 Yugoslavia.  U.S. participates in months of air bombing and cruise missile strikes in Kosovo war.

2000 Yemen. 17 U.S. sailors killed aboard US Navy guided missile destroyer USS Cole docked in Aden, Yemen.

2001 Macedonia. U.S. military lands troops during their civil war.

2001 to present Afghanistan. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) includes Pakistan and Uzbekistan with Afghanistan. 432 U.S. killed in those countries.  Another 64 killed in other locations of OEF – Guantanamo Bay, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Yemen.  US military does not count deaths of non- US civilians, but estimates of over 8000 Afghan troops killed, over 3500 Afghan civilians killed.

2002 Yemen.  U.S. predator drone missile attack on Al Qaeda.

2002 Philippines. U.S. sends over 1800 troops and Special Forces in mission with local military.

2003-2004 Colombia. U.S. sends in 800 military to back up Columbian military troops in their civil war.

2003 to present Iraq.  Operation Iraqi Freedom. 4082 U.S. military killed.  British medical journal Lancet estimates over 90,000 civilian deaths.  Iraq Body Count estimates over 84,000 civilians killed.

2005 Haiti. U.S. troops land in Haiti after elected president forced to leave.

2005 Pakistan. U.S. air strikes inside Pakistan against suspected Al Qaeda, killing mostly civilians.

2007 Somalia. U.S. Air Force gunship attacked suspected Al Qaeda members, U.S. Navy joins in blockade against Islamic rebels.

The U.S. has the most powerful and expensive military force in the world.  The U.S. is the biggest arms merchant. And the U.S. has been the most aggressive in world-wide interventions.   If Memorial Day in the U.S. is supposed to be about praying for peace, the U.S. has a lot of praying (and changing) to do.

Bill is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.  His email is quigley77@gmail.com

Bugliosi Wants Bush Charged with Murder

May 29, 2008

Bugliosi Wants Bush Charged with Murder

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Former California prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi wants President Bush charged with murder.

Bugliosi – who in the early 1970s successfully prosecuted Charles Manson for the murder of Sharon Tate and six others – lays out his case against Bush in The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder (Perseus Books, 2008).

The book will hit book stores today – Tuesday May 27, 2008.

“My motivation for writing this book is simple – to bring about justice,” Bugliosi says in a video posted on the book’s web site (prosecutionofbush.com).

“George Bush has gotten away with murder – thousands of murders,” Bugliosi says. “And no one is doing anything about it. The American people can’t let him do this.”

Bugliosi wants one or more of the fifty state attorneys general or one of the nation’s hundreds of district attorneys to step up and prosecute Bush for murder.

“I have set forth in my book the jurisdictional basis for the Attorney General in each of the fifty states – plus the hundreds upon hundreds of district attorneys in counties within the states – to prosecute George Bush for the murders of any soldier or soldiers from their state or county who were killed in Iraq fighting George Bush’s war,” Bugliosi says in the video on his web site.

“I don’t think it is too unreasonable to believe that at least one prosecutor out there in America – maybe many more – will be courageous enough to say – this is the United States of America. And in America no one is above the law. George Bush has gotten away with murder. No one is doing anything about it. And maybe this book will change that.”

Bugliosi argues that Bush misled the nation into a war that has killed more than 4,000 Americans.

At the center of Bugliosi’s indictment of Bush is a October 7, 2002 speech to the nation in which Bush claims that Saddam Hussein was a great danger to this nation either by attacking us with his weapons of mass destruction, or giving these weapons to some terrorist group.

“And he said – the attack could happen on any given day – meaning the threat was imminent,” Bugliosi says.

“The only problem for George Bush – and if he were prosecuted, there is no way he could get around this – is that on October 1, 2002, six days earlier, the CIA sent George Bush its 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, a classified top secret report. Page eight clearly and unequivocally says that Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat to the security of this country. In fact, the report says that Hussein would only use whatever weapons of mass destruction he had against us if he feared that America was about to attack him.”

“We know that Bush was telling millions upon millions of unsuspecting Americans exactly the opposite of what his own CIA was telling him,” Bugliosi said. “We know that George Bush took this nation to war on a lie. Who is going to pay for all of this? Someone has to pay. And the person who has to pay obviously is directly responsible for all of the death horror and suffering. And that person is George W. Bush.”

“The majority of the American people probably are going to find it difficult to accept that the President of the United States, the most powerful man on earth, would engage in conduct that smacks of such great criminality. You just don’t expect something like this from an American president. However, I’m very confident that once they read the book, they will be overwhelmed by the evidence against Bush. They will be convinced that he is guilty of murder and should be prosecuted. In the book, I lay out the legal architecture for the case against Bush, all of the evidence of the guilt against Bush and the jurisdiction to prosecute him. I even set forth proposed cross-examination questions of him if he takes the witness stand at trial.”

As a state prosecutor in Los Angeles, Bugliosi prosecuted Charles Manson and members of his “family” for the 1969 murders of Sharon Tate and six others.

Bugliosi says he lost only one of the 106 felony cases he tried as a prosecutor. He says he won 21 out of 21 murder cases.

He is the author of Helter Skelter – the best-selling book on the Manson trial.

Entrenched, Embedded, and Here to Stay

May 29, 2008

Entrenched, Embedded, and Here to Stay

By Frida Berrigan
Source: TomDispatch

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A full-fledged cottage industry is already focused on those who eagerly await the end of the Bush administration, offering calendars, magnets, and t-shirts for sale as well as counters and graphics to download onto blogs and websites. But when the countdown ends and George W. Bush vacates the Oval Office, he will leave a legacy to contend with. Certainly, he wills to his successor a world marred by war and battered by deprivation, but perhaps his most enduring legacy is now deeply embedded in Washington-area politics — a Pentagon metastasized almost beyond recognition.

The Pentagon’s massive bulk-up these last seven years will not be easily unbuilt, no matter who dons the presidential mantle on January 19, 2009. “The Pentagon” is now so much more than a five-sided building across the Potomac from Washington or even the seat of the Department of Defense. In many ways, it defies description or labeling.

Who, today, even remembers the debate at the end of the Cold War about what role U.S. military power should play in a “unipolar” world? Was U.S. supremacy so well established, pundits were then asking, that Washington could rely on softer economic and cultural power, with military power no more than a backup (and a domestic “peace dividend” thrown into the bargain)? Or was the U.S. to strap on the six-guns of a global sheriff and police the world as the fountainhead of “humanitarian interventions”? Or was it the moment to boldly declare ourselves the world’s sole superpower and wield a high-tech military comparable to none, actively discouraging any other power or power bloc from even considering future rivalry?

The attacks of September 11, 2001 decisively ended that debate. The Bush administration promptly declared total war on every front — against peoples, ideologies, and, above all, “terrorism” (a tactic of the weak). That very September, administration officials proudly leaked the information that they were ready to “target” up to 60 other nations and the terrorist movements within them.

The Pentagon’s “footprint” was to be firmly planted, military base by military base, across the planet, with a special emphasis on its energy heartlands. Top administration officials began preparing the Pentagon to go anywhere and do anything, while rewriting, shredding, or ignoring whatever laws, national or international, stood in the way. In 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld officially articulated a new U.S. military posture that, in conception, was little short of revolutionary. It was called — in classic Pentagon shorthand — the 1-4-2-1 Defense Strategy (replacing the Clinton administration’s already none-too-modest plan to be prepared to fight two major wars — in the Middle East and Northeast Asia — simultaneously).

Theoretically, this strategy meant that the Pentagon was to prepare to defend the United States, while building forces capable of deterring aggression and coercion in four “critical regions” (Europe, Northeast Asia, East Asia, and the Middle East). It would be able to defeat aggression in two of these regions simultaneously and “win decisively” in one of those conflicts “at a time and place of our choosing.” Hence 1-4-2-1.

And that was just going to be the beginning. We had, by then, already entered the new age of the Mega-Pentagon. Almost six years later, the scale of that institution’s expansion has yet to be fully grasped, so let’s look at just seven of the major ways in which the Pentagon has experienced mission creep — and leap — dwarfing other institutions of government in the process.

1. The Budget-busting Pentagon: The Pentagon’s core budget — already a staggering $300 billion when George W. Bush took the presidency — has almost doubled while he’s been parked behind the big desk in the Oval Office. For fiscal year 2009, the regular Pentagon budget will total roughly $541 billion (including work on nuclear warheads and naval reactors at the Department of Energy).

The Bush administration has presided over one of the largest military buildups in the history of the United States. And that’s before we even count “war spending.” If the direct costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Global War on Terror, are factored in, “defense” spending has essentially tripled.

As of February 2008, according to the Congressional Budget Office, lawmakers have appropriated $752 billion for the Iraq war and occupation, ongoing military operations in Afghanistan, and other activities associated with the Global War on Terror. The Pentagon estimates that it will need another $170 billion for fiscal 2009, which means, at $922 billion, that direct war spending since 2001 would be at the edge of the trillion-dollar mark.

As New York Times columnist Bob Herbert has pointed out, if a stack of bills roughly six inches high is worth $1 million; then, a $1 billion stack would be as tall as the Washington Monument, and a $1 trillion stack would be 95 miles high. And note that none of these war-fighting funds are even counted as part of the annual military budget, but are raised from Congress in the form of “emergency supplementals” a few times a year.

With the war added to the Pentagon’s core budget, the United States now spends nearly as much on military matters as the rest of the world combined. Military spending also throws all other parts of the federal budget into shadow, representing 58 cents of every dollar spent by the federal government on “discretionary programs” (those that Congress gets to vote up or down on an annual basis).

The total Pentagon budget represents more than our combined spending on education, environmental protection, justice administration, veteran’s benefits, housing assistance, transportation, job training, agriculture, energy, and economic development. No wonder, then, that, as it collects ever more money, the Pentagon is taking on (or taking over) ever more functions and roles.

2. The Pentagon as Diplomat: The Bush administration has repeatedly exhibited its disdain for discussion and compromise, treaties and agreements, and an equally deep admiration for what can be won by threat and force. No surprise, then, that the White House’s foreign policy agenda has increasingly been directed through the military. With a military budget more than 30 times that of all State Department operations and non-military foreign aid put together, the Pentagon has marched into State’s two traditional strongholds — diplomacy and development — duplicating or replacing much of its work, often by refocusing Washington’s diplomacy around military-to-military, rather than diplomat-to-diplomat, relations.

Since the late eighteenth century, the U.S. ambassador in any country has been considered the president’s personal representative, responsible for ensuring that foreign policy goals are met. As one ambassador explained; “The rule is: if you’re in country, you work for the ambassador. If you don’t work for the ambassador, you don’t get country clearance.”

In the Bush era, the Pentagon has overturned this model. According to a 2006 Congressional report by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Embassies as Command Posts in the Anti-Terror Campaign, civilian personnel in many embassies now feel occupied by, outnumbered by, and subordinated to military personnel. They see themselves as the second team when it comes to decision-making. Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates is aware of the problem, noting as he did last November that there are “only about 6,600 professional Foreign Service officers — less than the manning for one aircraft carrier strike group.” But, typically, he added that, while the State Department might need more resources, “Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be asking for yet more money for Defense next year.” Another ambassador lamented that his foreign counterparts are “following the money” and developing relationships with U.S. military personnel rather than cultivating contacts with their State Department counterparts.

The Pentagon invariably couches its bureaucratic imperialism in terms of “interagency cooperation.” For example, last year U.S. Southern Command (Southcom) released Command Strategy 2016, a document which identified poverty, crime, and corruption as key “security” problems in Latin America. It suggested that Southcom, a security command, should, in fact, be the “central actor in addressing… regional problems” previously the concern of civilian agencies. It then touted itself as the future focus of a “joint interagency security command… in support of security, stability and prosperity in the region.”

As Southcom head Admiral James Stavridis vividly put the matter, the command now likes to see itself as “a big Velcro cube that these other agencies can hook to so we can collectively do what needs to be done in this region.”

The Pentagon has generally followed this pattern globally since 2001. But what does “cooperation” mean when one entity dwarfs all others in personnel, resources, and access to decision-makers, while increasingly controlling the very definition of the “threats” to be dealt with.

3. The Pentagon as Arms Dealer: In the Bush years, the Pentagon has aggressively increased its role as the planet’s foremost arms dealer, pumping up its weapons sales everywhere it can — and so seeding the future with war and conflict.

By 2006 (the last year for which full data is available), the United States alone accounted for more than half the world’s trade in arms with $14 billion in sales. Noteworthy were a $5 billion deal for F-16s to Pakistan and a $5.8 billion agreement to completely reequip Saudi Arabia’s internal security force. U.S. arms sales for 2006 came in at roughly twice the level of any previous year of the Bush administration.

Number two arms dealer, Russia, registered a comparatively paltry $5.8 billion in deliveries, just over a third of the U.S. arms totals. Ally Great Britain was third at $3.3 billion — and those three countries account for a whopping 85% of the weaponry sold that year, more than 70% of which went to the developing world.

Great at selling weapons, the Pentagon is slow to report its sales. Arms sales notifications issued by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) do, however, offer one crude way to the take the Department of Defense’s pulse; and, while not all reported deals are finalized, that pulse is clearly racing. Through May of 2008, DSCA had already issued more than $9.1 billion in arms sales notifications including smart bomb kits for Saudi Arabia, TOW missiles for Kuwait, F-16 combat aircraft for Romania, and Chinook helicopters for Canada.

To maintain market advantage, the Pentagon never stops its high-pressure campaigns to peddle weapons abroad. That’s why, despite a broken shoulder, Secretary of Defense Gates took to the skies in February, to push weapons systems on countries like India and Indonesia, key growing markets for Pentagon arms dealers.

4. The Pentagon as Intelligence Analyst and Spy: In the area of “intelligence,” the Pentagon’s expansion — the commandeering of information and analysis roles — has been swift, clumsy, and catastrophic.

Tracing the Pentagon’s take-over of intelligence is no easy task. For one thing, there are dozens of Pentagon agencies and offices that now collect and analyze information using everything from “humint” (human intelligence) to wiretaps and satellites. The task is only made tougher by the secrecy that surrounds U.S. intelligence operations and the “black budgets” into which so much intelligence money disappears.

But the end results are clear enough. The Pentagon’s takeover of intelligence has meant fewer intelligence analysts who speak Arabic, Farsi, or Pashto and more dog-and-pony shows like those four-star generals and three-stripe admirals mouthing administration-approved talking points on cable news and the Sunday morning talk shows.

Intelligence budgets are secret, so what we know about them is not comprehensive — but the glimpses analysts have gotten suggest that total intelligence spending was about $26 billion a decade ago. After 9/11, Congress pumped a lot of new money into intelligence so that by 2003, the total intelligence budget had already climbed to more than $40 billion.

In 2004, the 9/11 Commission highlighted the intelligence failures of the Central Intelligence Agency and others in the alphabet soup of the U.S. Intelligence Community charged with collecting and analyzing information on threats to the country. Congress then passed an intelligence “reform” bill, establishing the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, designed to manage intelligence operations. Thanks to stiff resistance from pro-military lawmakers, the National Intelligence Directorate never assumed that role, however, and the Pentagon kept control of three key collection agencies — the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Agency.

As a result, according to Tim Shorrock, investigative journalist and author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, the Pentagon now controls more than 80% of U.S. intelligence spending, which he estimated at about $60 billion in 2007. As Mel Goodman, former CIA official and now an analyst at the Center for International Policy, observed, “The Pentagon has been the big bureaucratic winner in all of this.”

It is such a big winner that CIA Director Michael Hayden now controls only the budget for the CIA itself — about $4 or 5 billion a year and no longer even gives the President his daily helping of intelligence.

The Pentagon’s intelligence shadow looms large well beyond the corridors of Washington’s bureaucracies. It stretches across the mountains of Afghanistan as well. After the U.S. invaded that country in 2001, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld recognized that, unless the Pentagon controlled information-gathering and took the lead in carrying out covert operations, it would remain dependent on — and therefore subordinate to — the Central Intelligence Agency with its grasp of “on-the-ground” intelligence.

In one of his now infamous memos, labeled “snowflakes” by a staff that watched them regularly flutter down from on high, he asserted that, if the War on Terror was going to stretch far into the future, he did not want to continue the Pentagon’s “near total dependence on the CIA.” And so Rumsfeld set up a new, directly competitive organization, the Pentagon’s Strategic Support Branch, which put the intelligence gathering components of the U.S. Special Forces under one roof reporting directly to him. (Many in the intelligence community saw the office as illegitimate, but Rumsfeld was riding high and they were helpless to do anything.)

As Seymour Hersh, who repeatedly broke stories in the New Yorker on the Pentagon’s misdeeds in the Global War on Terror, wrote in January 2005, the Bush administration had already “consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War II national-security state.”

In the rush to invade Iraq, the civilians running the Pentagon also fused the administration’s propaganda machine with military intelligence. In 2002, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith established the Office of Special Plans (OSP) in the Pentagon to provide “actionable information” to White House policymakers. Using existing intelligence reports “scrubbed” of qualifiers like “probably” or “may,” or sometimes simply fabricated ones, the office was able to turn worst-case scenarios about Saddam Hussein’s supposed programs to develop weapons of mass destruction into fact, and then, through leaks, use the news media to validate them.

Former CIA Director Robert Gates, who took over the Pentagon when Donald Rumsfeld resigned in November 2006, has been critical of the Pentagon’s “dominance” in intelligence and “the decline in the CIA’s central role.” He has also signaled his intention to rollback the Pentagon’s long intelligence shadow; but, even if he is serious, he will have his work cut out for him. In the meantime, the Pentagon continues to churn out “intelligence” which is, politely put, suspect — from torture-induced confessions of terrorism suspects to exposés of the Iranian origins of sophisticated explosive devices found in Iraq.

5. The Pentagon as Domestic Disaster Manager: When the deciders in Washington start seeing the Pentagon as the world’s problem solver, strange things happen. In fact, in the Bush years, the Pentagon has become the official first responder of last resort in case of just about any disaster — from tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods to civil unrest, potential outbreaks of disease, or possible biological or chemical attacks. In 2002, in a telltale sign of Pentagon mission creep, President Bush established the first domestic military command since the civil war, the U.S. Northern Command (Northcom). Its mission: the “preparation for, prevention of, deterrence of, preemption of, defense against, and response to threats and aggression directed towards U.S. territory, sovereignty, domestic population, and infrastructure; as well as crisis management, consequence management, and other domestic civil support.”

If it sounds like a tall order, it is.

In the last six years, Northcom has been remarkably unsuccessful at anything but expanding its theoretical reach. The command was initially assigned 1,300 Defense Department personnel, but has since grown into a force of more than 15,000. Even criticism only seems to strengthen its domestic role. For example, an April 2008 Government Accountability Office report found that Northcom had failed to communicate effectively with state and local leaders or National Guard units about its newly developed disaster and terror response plans. The result? Northcom says it will have its first brigade-sized unit of military personnel trained to help local authorities respond to chemical, biological, or nuclear incidents by this fall. Mark your calendars.

More than anything else, Northcom has provided the Pentagon with the opening it needed to move forcefully into domestic disaster areas previously handled by national, state and local civilian authorities.

For example, Northcom’s deputy director, Brigadier General Robert Felderman, boasts that the command is now the United States’s “global synchronizer — the global coordinator — for pandemic influenza across the combatant commands.” Similarly, Northcom is now hosting annual hurricane preparation conferences and assuring anyone who will listen that it is “prepared to fully engage” in future Katrina-like situations “in order to save lives, reduce suffering and protect infrastructure.”

Of course, at present, the Pentagon is the part of the government gobbling up the funds that might otherwise be spent shoring up America’s Depression-era public works, ensuring that the Pentagon will have failure aplenty to respond to in the future.

The American Society for Civil Engineers, for example, estimates that $1.6 trillion is badly needed to bring the nation’s infrastructure up to protectable snuff, or $320 billion a year for the next five years. Assessing present water systems, roads, bridges, and dams nationwide, the engineers gave the infrastructure a series of C and D grades.

In the meantime, the military is marching in. Katrina, for instance, made landfall on August 29, 2005. President Bush ordered troops deployed to New Orleans on September 2nd to coordinate the delivery of food and water and to serve as a deterrent against looting and violence. Less than a month later, President Bush asked Congress to shift responsibility for major future disasters from state governments and the Department of Homeland Security to the Pentagon.

The next month, President Bush again offered the military as his solution — this time to global fears about outbreaks of the avian flu virus. He suggested that, to enforce a quarantine, “One option is the use of the military that’s able to plan and move.”

Already sinking under the weight of its expansion and two draining wars, many in the military have been cool to such suggestions, as has a Congress concerned about maintaining states’ rights and civilian control. Offering the military as the solution to domestic natural disasters and flu outbreaks means giving other first responders the budgetary short shrift. It is unlikely, however, that Northcom, now riding the money train, will go quietly into oblivion in the years to come.

6. The Pentagon as Humanitarian Caregiver Abroad: The U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department have traditionally been tasked with responding to disaster abroad; but, from Indonesia’s tsunami-ravaged shores to Myanmar after the recent cyclone, natural catastrophe has become another presidential opportunity to “send in the Marines” (so to speak). The Pentagon has increasingly taken up humanitarian planning, gaining an ever larger share of U.S. humanitarian missions abroad.

From Kenya to Afghanistan, from the Philippines to Peru, the U.S. military is also now regularly the one building schools and dental clinics, repairing roads and shoring up bridges, tending to sick children and doling out much needed cash and food stuffs, all civilian responsibilities once upon a time.

The Center for Global Development finds that the Pentagon’s share of “official development assistance” — think “winning hearts and minds” or “nation-building” – has increased from 6% to 22% between 2002 and 2005. The Pentagon is fast taking over development from both the NGO-community and civilian agencies, slapping a smiley face on military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond.

Despite the obvious limitations of turning a force trained to kill and destroy into a cadre of caregivers, the Pentagon’s mili-humanitarian project got a big boost from the cash that was seized from Saddam Hussein’s secret coffers. Some of it was doled out to local American commanders to be used to deal with immediate Iraqi needs and seal deals in the months after Baghdad fell in April 2003. What was initially an ad hoc program now has an official name — the Commander Emergency Response Program (CERP) — and a line in the Pentagon budget.

Before the House Budget Committee last summer, Gordon England, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, told members of Congress that the CERP was a “particularly effective initiative,” explaining that the program provided “limited but immediately available funds” to military commanders which they could spend “to make a concrete difference in people’s daily lives.” This, he claimed, was now a “key part of the broader counter insurgency approach.” He added that it served the purpose of “complementing security initiatives” and that it was so successful many commanders consider it “the most powerful weapon in their arsenal.”

In fact, the Pentagon doesn’t do humanitarian work very well. In Afghanistan, for instance, food-packets dropped by U.S. planes were the same color as the cluster munitions also dropped by U.S. planes; while schools and clinics built by U.S. forces often became targets before they could even be put into use. In Iraq, money doled out to the Pentagon’s sectarian-group-of-the-week for wells and generators turned out to be just as easily spent on explosives and AK-47s.

7. The Pentagon as Global Viceroy and Ruler of the Heavens: In the Bush years, the Pentagon finished dividing the globe into military “commands,” which are functionally viceroyalties. True, even before 9/11, it was hard to imagine a place on the globe where the United States military was not, but until recently, the continent of Africa largely qualified.

Along with the creation of Northcom, however, the establishment of the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) in 2008 officially filled in the last Pentagon empty spot on the map. A key military document, the 2006 National Security Strategy for the United States signaled the move, asserting that “Africa holds growing geo-strategic importance and is a high-priority of this administration.” (Think: oil and other key raw materials.)

In the meantime, funding for Africa under the largest U.S. military aid program, Foreign Military Financing, doubled from $10 to $20 million between 2000 and 2006, and the number of recipient nations grew from two to 14. Military training funding increased by 35% in that same period (rising from $8.1 million to $11 million). Now, the militaries of 47 African nations receive U.S. training.

In Pentagon planning terms, Africom has unified the continent for the first time. (Only Egypt remains under the aegis of the U.S. Central Command.) According to President Bush, this should “enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa.”

Theresa Whelan, assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, continues to insist that Africom has been formed neither to facilitate the fighting of wars (“engaging kinetically in Africa”), nor to divvy up the continent’s raw materials in the style of nineteenth century colonialism. “This is not,” she says, “about a scramble for the continent.” But about one thing there can be no question: It is about increasing the global reach of the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, should the Earth not be enough, there are always the heavens to control. In August 2006, building on earlier documents like the 1998 U.S. Space Command’s Vision for 2020 (which called for a policy of “full spectrum dominance”), the Bush administration unveiled its “national space policy.” It advocated establishing, defending, and enlarging U.S. control over space resources and argued for “unhindered” rights in space — unhindered, that is, by international agreements preventing the weaponization of space. The document also asserted that “freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power.”

As the document put it, “In the new century, those who effectively utilize space will enjoy added prosperity and security and will hold a substantial advantage over those who do not.” (The leaders of China, Russia, and other major states undoubtedly heard the loud slap of a gauntlet being thrown down.) At the moment, the Bush administration’s rhetoric and plans outstrip the resources being devoted to space weapons technology, but in the recently announced budget, the President allocated nearly a billion dollars to space-based weapons programs.

Of all the frontiers of expansion, perhaps none is more striking than the Pentagon’s sorties into the future. Does the Department of Transportation offer a Vision for 2030? Does the Environmental Protection Agency develop plans for the next fifty years? Does the Department of Health and Human Services have a team of power-point professionals working up dynamic graphics for what services for the elderly will look like in 2050?

These agencies project budgets just around the corner of the next decade. Only the Pentagon projects power and possibility decades into the future, colonizing the imagination with scads of different scenarios under which, each year, it will continue to control hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars.

Complex 2030, Vision 2020, UAV Roadmap 2030, the Army’s Future Combat Systems – the names, which seem unending, tell the tale.

As the clock ticks down to November 4, 2008, a lot of people are investing hope (as well as money and time) in the possibility of change at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But when it comes to the Pentagon, don’t count too heavily on change, no matter who the new president may be. After all, seven years, four months, and a scattering of days into the Bush presidency, the Pentagon is deeply entrenched in Washington and still aggressively expanding. It has developed a taste for unrivaled power and unequaled access to the treasure of this country. It is an institution that has escaped the checks and balances of the nation.

Frida Berrigan is a Senior Program Associate at the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiative. She is a columnist for Foreign Policy in Focus and a contributing editor at In These Times magazine. She is the author of reports on the arms trade and human rights, U.S. nuclear weapons policy, and the domestic politics of U.S. missile defense and space weapons policies. She can be reached at berrigan@newamerica.net.

[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The End of Victory Culture (University of Massachusetts Press), which has just been thoroughly updated in a newly issued edition that deals with victory culture’s crash-and-burn sequel in Iraq.]

Where Is Raed Now?

May 29, 2008

Where Is Raed Now?
Meet the Iraqi exile (and former Salam Pax blogger) who could foil Bush’s plans for permanent bases near Baghdad.” />

Jonathan Schwarz” />
May 01″ /> , 2008″ />
In 1998, 20-year-old Raed Jarrar watched from the roof of his family’s home in Baghdad as American Tomahawk cruise missiles struck government buildings close by, blowing out the windows and sending him scrambling for cover. Five years later, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, coalition planes targeted the same buildings, as well as the nearby airport and Saddam Hussein’s palace, killing and wounding dozens of people from Jarrar’s middle-class neighborhood.

This year, Jarrar quietly celebrated his 30th birthday outside Pasadena at a retreat he was attending for his job as a consultant for the American Friends Service Committee. He now lives in Washington, D.C., a short metro ride away from the White House, the Pentagon, and the various think tanks where his country’s future has been decided for much of his life. Yet Jarrar’s become something the war’s planners did not anticipate: an Iraqi who’s thwarted their efforts by using the tools of American democracy. Through a peculiar roll of history’s dice, the young exile has helped throw a monkey wrench in the Bush administration’s attempts to lay the groundwork for a permanent American presence in Iraq. “I’m just another small example of how Iraqis would rather end the occupation through talking to U.S. legislators and the public,” Jarrar explains.

Jarrar was born in Baghdad, the son of a Shiite mother and a Sunni father, and the oldest of three boys. He attended the University of Baghdad and began graduate school in Amman, Jordan, where he studied architecture, focusing on postwar reconstruction. As the world’s eyes turned to Iraq in late 2002, a friend and fellow architect who went by the nickname “Salam Pax” started an English-language blog. Because he often had trouble reaching Jarrar, he named it “Where Is Raed?” Jarrar started blogging there as well, and to the friends’ surprise, their musings on stockpiling food and the gyrating value of the dinar were read by people all over the world looking for a glimpse of the final days of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

After the American invasion, Jarrar started an ngo named Emaar (“Reconstruction”) to support Iraqis trying to rebuild their neighborhoods. His blog posts began to reflect his growing anger at the occupation. “American foreign policy is putting people like me in a very weak position,” he wrote in March 2004. “In extreme circumstances, extreme ideologies rule and dominate. And I am, unfortunately, not an extremist.”

While traveling in southern Iraq, Jarrar was kidnapped by a militia; he was released unharmed after a few hours. With normal life in Iraq becoming “impossible,” he decided to return to Jordan to complete his master’s degree. In Amman, he met and became engaged to an Iranian American woman. In September 2005, Jarrar arrived in the United States and made plans to become a permanent resident.

That summer, George W. Bush had assured Iraqis and Americans that the United States would stay in Iraq “as long as we are needed, and not a day longer.” But Jarrar—like many Iraqis—suspected that the administration had other ideas. After witnessing Iraq’s descent into violence, he became convinced that the only solution was for the United States to leave as soon as possible. “Only a complete U.S. withdrawal that leaves no troops, bases, or private contractors behind would create the safe space for Iraqis to deal with their problems and heal their wounds,” he says. “Iraqis will never be capable of starting the process of reconciliation and reconstruction with a foreign occupation taking sides.”

Five years on, American forces remain in Iraq under a United Nations mandate subject to annual renewal by the Security Council. Last June, Iraq’s parliament, asserting its constitutional duty to ratify treaties, passed a law requiring its approval of future extensions of the mandate. But the UN and Iraqi president Nouri al-Maliki, under pressure from the United States, have ignored the MPs. Late last year the mandate was renewed until the end of 2008 without parliamentary approval.

In the meantime, the Bush administration has tried to bypass the UN altogether. In late November 2007, Maliki and Bush quietly signed a Declaration of Principles that outlined the United States’ ongoing political and military relationship with Iraq, including its commitment to “defending [Iraq’s] democratic system against internal and external threats.”

In the many countries where its troops are based, the United States maintains Status of Forces Agreements, or sofas, which may be signed by the president without congressional approval. But until now, only treaties, which require Senate ratification, have authorized the use of force by American troops in host countries. No sofa has given American troops the leeway implied in the Declaration of Principles. The administration “does not want this to go to Congress,” explains former assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “They’d never get the votes.”

That’s where Jarrar stepped in. He had already spent months trying to get members of Congress to make contact with Iraqi members of parliament who opposed extending the UN mandate. (More than half of Iraqi MPs have called for the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal.) Shortly after the Bush-Maliki agreement was signed, Jarrar was introduced to Caleb Rossiter, an aide to Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight. In Jarrar, Rossiter recognized a unique resource. Just as Arabic-speaking American officials are a rarity in Baghdad, so too are Iraqi anti-war activists in Washington who speak fluent English and can navigate the intricacies of the Iraqi government.

Rossiter took the issue to Delahunt, who has since held more than five hearings on the legality of the Bush administration’s plans for Iraq. Jarrar testified at the first hearing and is now helping Delahunt bring a handful of Iraqi MPs to the States to meet their counterparts and discuss their shared oversight role. As Rossiter explains, “Never underestimate the bonding power of legislators learning they’re both being constitutionally insulted by the same people in the same way.”

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in February, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates backpedaled on the Declaration of Principles, stating it was “not considered by our government to be a security commitment.” Gates also suggested that any future security agreements with Iraq would be subject to congressional review, although the White House is intent on finalizing its agreement with Maliki before the end of Bush’s term.

Rossiter credits Jarrar for tipping off Congress to a situation that the administration was not eager to publicize. “Without Jarrar, who knows where we’d be,” he says. “He’s been crucial in helping us think through our inquiry into this. What makes him so valuable is he understands the coin of the realm on Capitol Hill is good information. We know from experience that we can count on anything he brings us.” Congressman Delahunt concurs. “Raed’s been simply invaluable,” he says. “There’s so much about Iraq we can miss: the domestic political forces, the diversity of the society. He’s given us outstanding objective analysis on all of it.”

The secret of Jarrar’s success may be that unlike most people walking the halls of Congress, he never wanted to be there in the first place. He’d rather be back in Baghdad, putting his training rebuilding cities to use.

“I still sometimes dream that there will be opportunities after the war, like in Chicago after the great fire,” he says. “But I’m not an architect now. I didn’t have the privilege to decide that. What decided were the bombs that fell on my neighborhood.”

Moles Wanted

May 22, 2008

In preparation for the Republican National Convention, the FBI is soliciting informants to keep tabs on local protest groups

Moles Wanted

By Matt Snyders

They were looking for an informant to show up at

They were looking for an informant to show up at “vegan potlucks” throughout the Twin Cities and rub shoulders with RNC protestors.

Paul Carroll was riding his bike when his cell phone vibrated.

Once he arrived home from the Hennepin County Courthouse, where he’d been served a gross misdemeanor for spray-painting the interior of a campus elevator, the lanky, wavy-haired University of Minnesota sophomore flipped open his phone and checked his messages. He was greeted by a voice he recognized immediately. It belonged to U of M Police Sgt. Erik Swanson, the officer to whom Carroll had turned himself in just three weeks earlier. When Carroll called back, Swanson asked him to meet at a coffee shop later that day, going on to assure a wary Carroll that he wasn’t in trouble.

Carroll, who requested that his real name not be used, showed up early and waited anxiously for Swanson’s arrival. Ten minutes later, he says, a casually dressed Swanson showed up, flanked by a woman whom he introduced as FBI Special Agent Maureen E. Mazzola. For the next 20 minutes, Mazzola would do most of the talking.

“She told me that I had the perfect ‘look,’” recalls Carroll. “And that I had the perfect personality—they kept saying I was friendly and personable—for what they were looking for.”

What they were looking for, Carroll says, was an informant—someone to show up at “vegan potlucks” throughout the Twin Cities and rub shoulders with RNC protestors, schmoozing his way into their inner circles, then reporting back to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, a partnership between multiple federal agencies and state and local law enforcement. The effort’s primary mission, according to the Minneapolis division’s website, is to “investigate terrorist acts carried out by groups or organizations which fall within the definition of terrorist groups as set forth in the current United States Attorney General Guidelines.”

Carroll would be compensated for his efforts, but only if his involvement yielded an arrest. No exact dollar figure was offered.

“I’ll pass,” said Carroll.

For 10 more minutes, Mazzola and Swanson tried to sway him. He remained obstinate.

“Well, if you change your mind, call this number,” said Mazzola, handing him her card with her cell phone number scribbled on the back.

(Mazzola, Swanson, and the FBI did not return numerous calls seeking comment.)

Carroll’s story echoes a familiar theme. During the lead-up the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, the NYPD’s Intelligence Division infiltrated and spied on protest groups across the country, as well as in Canada and Europe. The program’s scope extended to explicitly nonviolent groups, including street theater troupes and church organizations.

There were also two reported instances of police officers, dressed as protestors, purposefully instigating clashes. At the 2004 Republican National Convention, the NYPD orchestrated a fake arrest to incite protestors. When a blond man was “arrested,” nearby protestors began shouting, “Let him go!” The helmeted police proceeded to push back against the crowd with batons and arrested at least two. In a similar instance, during an April 29, 2005, Critical Mass bike ride in New York, video footage captured a “protestor”—in reality an undercover cop—telling his captor, “I’m on the job,” and being subsequently let go.

Minneapolis’s own recent Critical Mass skirmish was allegedly initiated by two unidentified stragglers in hoods—one wearing a handkerchief over his or her face—who “began to make aggressive moves” near the back of the pack. During that humid August 31 evening, officers went on to arrest 19 cyclists while unleashing pepper spray into the faces of bystanders. The hooded duo was never apprehended.

In the scuffle’s wake, conspiracy theories swirled that the unprecedented surveillance—squad cars from multiple agencies and a helicopter hovering overhead—was due to the presence of RNC protesters in the ride. The MPD publicly denied this. But during the trial of cyclist Gus Ganley, MPD Sgt. David Stichter testified that a task force had been created to monitor the August 31 ride and that the department knew that members of an RNC protest group would be along for the ride.

“This is all part of a larger government effort to quell political dissent,” says Jordan Kushner, an attorney who represented Ganley and other Critical Mass arrestees. “The Joint Terrorism Task Force is another example of using the buzzword ‘terrorism’ as a basis to clamp down on people’s freedoms and push forward a more authoritarian government.”


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