Archive for November, 2007

The Bush Family Gets Away with Crimes That Would Land Anyone Else in Jail by Robert Parry

November 30, 2007

The Bush Family Gets Away with Crimes That Would Land Anyone Else in Jail by Robert Parry

Dandelion Salad

by Robert Parry

Global Research, November 28, 2007

Consortium News – 2007-11-26

In the history of the American Republic, perhaps no political family has been more protected from scandal than the Bushes.

When the Bushes are involved in dirty deals or even criminal activity, standards of evidence change. Instead of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” that would lock up an average citizen, the evidence must be perfect.

If there’s any doubt at all, the Bushes must be presumed innocent. Even when their guilt is obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense, it’s their accusers and those who dare investigate who get the worst of it. Their motives are challenged and their own shortcomings are cast in the harshest possible light.

For decades — arguably going back generations — the Bushes have been protected by their unique position straddling two centers of national power, the family’s blueblood Eastern Establishment ties and the Texas oil crowd with strong links to the Republican Right. [For details on this family phenomenon, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

This reality was underscored again by how major news outlets and the right-wing press reacted to a new piece of evidence implicating George W. Bush in a criminal cover-up in the “Plame-gate” scandal.

Though the evidence is now overwhelming that President Bush was part of a White House cabal that leaked Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity as a covert CIA officer and then covered up the facts, major newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, continue to pooh-pooh this extraordinary scandal.

The latest piece of evidence was the statement from former White House press secretary Scott McClellan that Bush was one of five senior officials who had him clear Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby in the leak when, in fact, they were two of the leakers.

“The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore the credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” McClellan said in a snippet released by the publisher of his upcoming memoir.

“So I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby,” McClellan said. “There was one problem. It was not true.”

After McClellan’s statement touched off a brief furor on the Internet and cable TV shows, his publisher Peter Osnos tried to soften the blow. Osnos told Bloomberg News that McClellan didn’t mean that Bush deliberately ordered his press secretary to lie.

“He told him something that wasn’t true, but the President didn’t know it wasn’t true,” Osnos said.

What Bush Knew

But neither McClennan nor Osnos knows what Bush really knew.

The revelatory point in McClellan’s statement was that Bush was a direct participant in the campaign to protect Rove and Libby as they lied about their roles in the leak. Previously that was an inference one could draw from the facts, but it had not been confirmed by a White House official.

Indeed, looking at the available evidence, it would defy credulity that Bush wasn’t implicated in the Plame-gate leak and the subsequent cover-up, which led to Libby’s conviction earlier this year on four counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.

For Bush not to have been involved would have required him to be oblivious to the inner workings of the White House and the actions of his closest advisers on an issue of great importance to him.

From the evidence at Libby’s trial, it was already clear that Bush had a direct hand in the effort to discredit Plame’s husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, after he had gone public in July 2003 with his role in a CIA investigation of what turned out to be bogus claims that Iraq had sought yellowcake uranium from Niger.

Bush, who had cited those bogus claims in his 2003 State of the Union Address in making his case for invading Iraq, was worried about his credibility when U.S. forces failed to find WMD evidence and when Wilson became the first Washington insider to start questioning Bush’s case for war.

So, Bush collaborated with Vice President Dick Cheney in mounting a counter-attack against Wilson. Bush decided to selectively declassify portions of a National Intelligence Estimate in order to undercut Wilson’s credibility and agreed to have that information leaked to friendly reporters.

It was in that context that Libby, Rove and other administration officials went forth to brief reporters, contacts that ended up disclosing that Wilson’s CIA wife, Plame, played a role in arranging his work on the CIA investigation. The suggestion was that Wilson’s unpaid fact-finding trip to Niger was a case of nepotism or a junket.

Following these press contacts, Plame’s identity surfaced in a July 14, 2003, article by right-wing columnist Robert Novak, who had gotten his information from two sources, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and his friend, the president’s chief political adviser Karl Rove.

But Rove’s work on the Plame leak didn’t stop with Novak’s article; he continued to peddle the information to other journalists, such as MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who told Wilson a week after Novak’s column, “I just got off the phone with Karl Rove. He says and I quote, ‘Wilson’s wife is fair game.’”

Rove has since disputed the precise “fair game” quote, but he doesn’t deny talking to Matthews about Plame’s identity. So, we know that a week after the original leaks had blown Plame’s undercover status, Bush had not called off the dogs. His closest political adviser still was using the information to undermine Wilson.

Hardball Politics

This pattern of hardball politics, of course, fits with how George W. Bush and others in his family play the game.

His father, George H.W. Bush, would talk about how rough he could be when in “campaign mode.” The younger George Bush just extended that pugnacious approach to full-time, aided and abetted by a powerful right-wing media that has carried water for him consistently over the past eight years.

Even American citizens who get in Bush’s way feel the lash. Just ask the likes of former weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who challenged Bush’s pre-Iraq War claims about WMD, or the Dixie Chicks, who dared to diss the Commander in Chief at one of their concerts.

So, the treatment of Wilson/Plame was part of the standard fare for what happened to Americans who dissented on Bush’s war policies. However, this one was a little different because the leak destroyed the career of a covert CIA officer and endangered her network of foreign agents who had been supplying information about WMD in the Middle East.

In September 2003, upset about this collateral damage, the CIA forwarded a criminal complaint to the Justice Department seeking an investigation into the outing of Plame. As far as the CIA was concerned, her classified identity was covered by a 1982 law barring willful exposure of CIA officers who had “served” abroad in the preceding five years.

But Bush and his inner circle could still breathe easily since the probe was under the control of Attorney General John Ashcroft, considered to be a right-wing Bush ally. The White House responded to press inquiries disingenuously, claiming Bush took the leak very seriously and would punish anyone involved.

“The President has set high standards, the highest of standards, for people in his administration,” McClellan said on Sept. 29, 2003. “If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration.”

Bush personally announced his determination to get to the bottom of the matter.

“If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is,” Bush said on Sept. 30, 2003. “I want to know the truth. If anybody has got any information inside our administration or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward with the information so we can find out whether or not these allegations are true.”

Yet, even as Bush was professing his curiosity and calling for anyone with information to step forward, he was withholding the fact that he had authorized the declassification of some secrets about the Niger uranium issue and had ordered Cheney to arrange for those secrets to be given to reporters.

In other words, though Bush knew a great deal about how the anti-Wilson scheme got started — since he was involved in starting it — he uttered misleading public statements to conceal the White House role.

Spreading Lies

Also, since the other conspirators knew that Bush already was in the know, they would have read his comments as a signal to lie, which is what they did. In early October, press secretary McClellan said he could report that political adviser Karl Rove and National Security Council aide Elliott Abrams were not involved in the Plame leak.

That comment riled Libby, who feared that he was being hung out to dry. Libby went to his boss, Dick Cheney, and complained that “they’re trying to set me up; they want me to be the sacrificial lamb,” Libby’s lawyer Theodore Wells later said.

Cheney scribbled down his feelings in a note to press secretary McClellan: “Not going to protect one staffer + sacrifice the guy the Pres that was asked to stick his head in the meat grinder because of incompetence of others.”

Cheney initially ascribed Libby’s role in going after Wilson to Bush’s orders, but the Vice President apparently thought better of it, crossing out “the Pres” and putting the clause in a passive tense.

Cheney has never explained publicly the meaning of his note, but it suggests that it was Bush who sent Libby out on the get-Wilson mission to limit damage from Wilson’s criticism of Bush’s false Niger-yellowcake claim in the State of the Union Address.

Cheney’s reference to the “incompetence of others” may refer to those who cleared the false Niger claim in the first place.

Bush’s subsequent behavior in the latter half of 2003 adds to the evidence of his guilt.

Assuming Bush was sincere in his desire to get to the bottom of who leaked Plame’s identity — or just wanted to make sure there was no security risk in his inner circle — he presumably would have ordered an internal White House security probe. But he didn’t.

James Knodell, director of the White House security office, conceded before a congressional committee in March 2007 that no internal security investigation was performed; no security clearances were suspended or revoked; no punishment of any kind was meted out to White House political adviser Rove, even after his role in leaking Plame’s classified identity was determined.

Knodell, whose job included assessing Executive Branch security breaches, said that what he knew about the Plame case was “through the press.” A logical inference from Knodell’s inaction was that Bush already knew who had leaked Plame’s identity because he was involved in the leak.

In fall 2003, with no White House security review underway and the criminal probe presumably bottled up in the Justice Department, the cover-up broadened. On Oct. 4, 2003, McClellan added Libby to the list of officials who have “assured me that they were not involved in this.”

So, Libby had a motive to lie to the FBI when he was first interviewed about the case. He had gone to the mat with his boss to get his name cleared in the press, meaning it would make little sense to then admit involvement to FBI investigators, especially when it looked as if the cover-up would hold.

“The White House had staked its credibility on there being no White House involvement in the leaking of information about Ms. Wilson,” a federal court filing later noted. For his part, Libby began claiming that he had first learned about Plame’s CIA identity from NBC’s Washington bureau chief Tim Russert after Wilson had gone public.

Reversal of Fortune

This White House cover-up might have worked, except in late 2003, Ashcroft decided he wouldn’t be the loyal foot soldier and recused himself because of a conflict of interest. Deputy Attorney General James Comey then picked Patrick Fitzgerald — the U.S. Attorney in Chicago — to serve as special prosecutor.

Fitzgerald pursued the investigation far more aggressively. Bush’s White House countered with a combination of public stonewalling and a continued PR campaign to further discredit Wilson.

Bush’s political and media allies dissected every nuance of the Wilson/Plame case to highlight supposed inconsistencies and contradictions.

The Republican National Committee put out nasty anti-Wilson talking points; senior Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee called Wilson a liar; the right-wing media — aided and abetted by the Washington Post’s neoconservative editorial page — amplified these ugly attacks to the public.

Right-wing lawyer Victoria Toensing received widespread media coverage when she claimed that Plame was not a “covert” officer under the definition of the 1982 law protecting the identities of intelligence agents because it only applied to CIA personnel who had “resided” or were “stationed” abroad in the previous five years.

Toensing argued that since Plame, the mother of young twins, was stationed at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and resided in the Washington area, she wasn’t “covert” even if that was her official CIA status. But Toensing was misrepresenting the law that she said she had helped draft while a congressional staffer in the early 1980s.

The actual wording of the law as it pertained to CIA and other clandestine officers was “served” abroad, which is not synonymous with “stationed” or “resided,” the words that Toensing had substituted.

One can be stationed or reside inside the United States and still “serve” abroad by undertaking secret missions overseas, which Plame had done.

But many in the right-wing news media and even at prestige newspapers like the Washington Post adopted Toensing’s word games as reality. It became an article of faith in some political circles that Plame was not a “covert” officer and that therefore there was “no underlying crime” in the leaking of her identity.

Bush’s Guilt?

But what does this ongoing pattern of deception and character assassination against Wilson and Plame suggest about Bush’s innocence or guilt?

If Bush were the innocent party that we are supposed to believe, wouldn’t he have acted differently? Wouldn’t he have called for an end to these attacks on two American citizens who had served their country?

But Bush never tried to halt these cruel diversionary tactics. The White House goal, it appears, was to stir up enough confusion so that the public wouldn’t focus on the logical conclusion that Bush was responsible for damaging a CIA operation intended to protect national security.

In October 2005, Fitzgerald indicted Libby on five counts of lying to federal investigators and obstructing justice. Libby was convicted on four of five counts in March 2007 and sentenced to 30 months in jail.

But Bush’s role in the cover-up wasn’t finished. On July 2, 2007, Bush commuted Libby’s sentence to spare him any jail time. The President also left open the possibility that Libby might receive a full pardon before Bush left the White House.

The combination of taking away the stick of jail time and dangling the carrot of a full pardon eliminated any incentive for Libby to turn state’s evidence against Bush, Cheney and other senior officials.

In a different era, one might expect major newspapers, like the New York Times and the Washington Post, to erupt in fury over such an obvious case of presidential wrongdoing. One also might have anticipated serious hearings by a Democratic-controlled Congress to get to the bottom of this sorry affair.

But not in this era. Even when former press secretary McClellan became the first White House insider to acknowledge that senior officials, including Bush and Cheney, put him up to spreading lies about the Plame-gate scandal (whatever they knew at the time), there was almost no reaction, except on the Internet and some cable TV shows.

The Post and Times essentially ignored McClellan’s statement, apparently buying into the later spin that Bush might not have known then that Libby and Rove were lying. Bush’s right-wing apologists already are back on the attack, claiming that McClellan’s back-tracking supports Bush’s innocence.

The Democrats also don’t seem to have the stomach to hold Bush accountable. One presidential hopeful, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut, called for the Justice Department to investigate whether Bush had intentionally misled the public.

But the Democrats control both houses of Congress and presumably could compel testimony from many of the principals. They might even be able to force an explanation from special prosecutor Fitzgerald about why he didn’t pursue a broader case and what Bush and Cheney told him during their interviews about the Plame leak.

Instead the Democrats appear frightened of the counter-attack that the right-wing media could unleash, especially when major mainstream publications like the Times show little interest in the story and others like the Post actually are helping Bush in his cover-up.

But the broader picture appears to be that George W. Bush is just the latest member of the Bush family who can skate away from nearly any wrongdoing without paying a price.

Robert Parry’s new book is Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.”


Global Research Articles by Robert Parry

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A Dollar the Size of a Postage Stamp By Mike Whitney

November 29, 2007

A Dollar the Size of a Postage Stamp By Mike Whitney

Dandelion Salad

By Mike Whitney
11/28/07 “ICH

Even Larry Summers Predicts Doom

Lately it seems as though everyone wants to take a poke at the dollar. Last week, it was the Brazilian supermodel who demanded euros for her jaunts on the catwalk instead of USD. The week before that, hip-hop impresario, Jay-Z, released a video dissin’ the dollar and praising the euro as the ‘baddest Dude in the ‘hood’.

Lambasting the greenback has become trendy. It’s a favorite pastime of politicians, too. At the November OPEC meeting in Riyadh, Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asked the assembled finance ministers to “study the feasibility of selling oil in another currency.” Ahmadinejad disparaged the dollar as “a worthless piece of paper”.

The fiery Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, followed Ahmadinejad’s lead predicting that the demise of the dollar would mean the “end of the Empire.”

Hugo may be on to something. The dollar is America’s Achilles heel; if the dollar tanks, so does the empire. That means the taxpayer will have to foot the bill for Bush’s bloody-interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than the Chinese. That also means that the US will have to export something of greater value than Daisy Cutters and gulags. That could be a tall-order, now that Bush has boarded up the factories, hollowed out the industrial base, and outsourced 3 million manufacturing jobs. We’ll have to scrape the rust off the machinery and get back into the widget-making business like we were before the Free Trade fiasco.

Central banks across the globe are trying to figure out how to ditch their dollar reserves without triggering a stampede for the exits. No one wants to see that. But, then, nobody wants to be stuck with vaults full of Uncle Sam’s green confetti either. So, the question arises; What is the best way to divest oneself of $5.6 trillion (total USD held overseas) before the Lusitania capsizes?

Kuwait, Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and Norway have already opted to ignore the destabilizing effects of “conversion” from dollars and are in some stage of divestiture. Others will follow. The UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia are considering switching from the dollar-peg to a basket of currencies so they can hedge against the inflation that’s battering their economies. It’s only a matter of time before the Petrodollar System—which links the dollar to petroleum sales and creates a de facto “international currency”—unravels completely, precipitating the final collapse of Breton Woods.

Talk of America’s impending currency disaster is no longer relegated to the Internet blathershere. Mainstream journalists have joined the chorus and are sending up their own red flags. The UK Telegraph’s economics’s editor, Liam Halligan, made this grim observation in his recent article, “Bet Your Bottom Dollar Tensions Will Follow”:

“The importance of “dollar divestment” cannot be overstated. At the very least it means the greenback has much further to fall – plunging the US into recession. But it begs a bigger, more alarming, question. How will Washington react to the end of the US hegemony?”

The dollar was savaged by the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve. The Fed’s policies were designed to coincide with Bush’s Middle East Crusade. They were supposed to work like two wheels on the same axle. The administration believed that, by 2007, the military would need only 30,000 or so troops to maintain security in Iraq. That would give Bush’s legions the chance to turn east and push on to the next target-state, Iran. If things went according to plan — and no one thought the high-tech US war machine could be stopped – the US would control two-thirds of the world’s oil. This would allow America to keep writing bad checks on green paper for the next century.

But then, of course, the plan hit a snag. The Iraqi resistance mushroomed, the US got bogged down in an “unwinnable” war, and the once-mighty dollar shriveled into nothingness. Now we’re at a turning point and our leaders are in a state of denial. Bush is still playing Teddy Roosevelt, while Paulson and Bernanke are just plain shell-shocked. They probably know the game is over. As the dollar continues to wither; the frustration is beginning to mount in Europe. Liam Halligan sums it up like this:

“Europe has finally had enough of America’s “benign neglect” dollar policy. As a large economic area, with a floating exchange rate, the eurozone suffers most. Over the past seven years, the single currency has risen by a shocking 82 per cent against the greenback. That’s hammered eurozone exports – provoking serious trade disputes between the EU and US, the world’s two biggest trading blocks. No wonder French President Nicolas Sarkozy describes America’s drooping dollar as “a precursor to economic war”. (UK Telegraph, “Bet Your Bottom Dollar tensions Will Follow”)

Sarkozy is leading the charge for “intervention”; the buzzword for shoring the greenback through exchange controls and buying up billions of dollars. But it’s a risky business; especially when net capital inflows — which are the monthly purchases of US-backed securities and Treasuries –have gone negative for the last two months. That means the US isn’t attracting enough foreign investment to finance its trade deficit. So the dollar will have to fall to compensate.

So, how much loot is Sarkozy willing to put up to keep the dollar from slumping further — $100 billion, $500 billion, $1,000 billion? And where’s the bottom?

The fact is, the greenback took a “header” down the stairwell and by the time it picks itself up, it could be eye to eye with the peso. Who knows? Maybe its time we all learned Spanish?

More than two-thirds of all sovereign foreign exchange holdings are denominated in dollars. When those dollars are converted into back into foreign currencies and start recycling into the US; we’re in deep trouble. Inflation will soar. Surely, the Fed must have known this day would come when they were pumping trillions of dollars into subprime mortgages and complex debt-instruments which served no earthly purpose except to fatten the bottom line for rapacious bankers and hedge-fund managers. The Fed also knew that the nation’s wealth was not being “efficiently deployed” for capital improvements on factories, technology or industry. Oh, no. That would have ensured that America would remain competitive in the global marketplace into the new century. Instead, the money was shoveled into the bottomless sinkhole of stucco homes with composition roofing and toxic credit default swaps.

The stock market lost another 237 points yesterday; the third 200-plus slide in a week. Now all three indexes are down more than 10% since their record high on Oct 9. Treasury yields are plunging as investors flee the stock market looking for safety. That means the Fed will have to slash rates again at its December 11 meeting to provide more low interest crack for the investor class. Traders see an 82% chance that Bernanke will cut the Fed Fund’s rate by another quarter point to 4.25%. All that is likely to do is put the dollar into free fall and send food, oil and gold prices to the moon. It won’t pay off the overdue mortgage payments and it won’t remove the billions of dollars of debt from the banks’ balance sheets. It’s pointless. The US is headed for a “hard landing” and its dragging the rest of the world along with it.

Harvard Economics professor, Lawrence Summers offered this sobering warning yesterday in an article in the Financial Times, “Wake up to the dangers of a deepening crisis”:

“Three months ago it was reasonable to expect that the subprime credit crisis would be a financially significant event but not one that would threaten the overall pattern of economic growth. This is still a possible outcome but no longer the preponderant probability. Even if necessary changes in policy are implemented, the odds now favor a US recession that slows growth significantly on a global basis. Without stronger policy responses than have been observed to date, moreover, there is the risk that the adverse impacts will be felt for the rest of this decade and beyond. Several streams of data indicate how much more serious the situation is than was clear a few months ago.”

Summers is not the smartest guy on the block. If he was he wouldn’t have said men are smarter than women and he’d still be president of Harvard. But he’s a capable economist and he can sniff disaster as it comes stampeding round the corner.

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Venezuela’s D-Day : Democratic Socialism or Imperial Counter-Revolution by Prof James Petras

November 29, 2007

Venezuela’s D-Day : Democratic Socialism or Imperial Counter-Revolution by Prof James Petras

by Prof James Petras
Global Research, November 28, 2007

The December 2, 2007 Constituent Referendum

On November 26, 2007 the Venezuelan government broadcast and circulated a confidential memo from the US embassy to the CIA which is devastatingly revealing of US clandestine operations and which will influence the referendum this Sunday (December 2, 2007).

The memo sent by an embassy official, Michael Middleton Steere, was addressed to the head of the CIA, Michael Hayden. The memo was entitled ‘Advancing to the Last Phase of Operation Pincer’ and updates the activity by a CIA unit with the acronym ‘HUMINT’ (Human Intelligence) which is engaged in clandestine action to destabilize the forth-coming referendum and coordinate the civil military overthrow of the elected Chavez government. The Embassy-CIA’s polls concede that 57% of the voters approved of the constitutional amendments proposed by Chavez but also predicted a 60% abstention.

The US operatives emphasized their capacity to recruit former Chavez supporters among the social democrats (PODEMOS) and the former Minister of Defense Baduel, claiming to have reduced the ‘yes’ vote by 6% from its original margin. Nevertheless the Embassy operatives concede that they have reached their ceiling, recognizing they cannot defeat the amendments via the electoral route.

The memo then recommends that Operation Pincer (OP) [Operación Tenaza] be operationalized. OP involves a two-pronged strategy of impeding the referendum, rejecting the outcome at the same time as calling for a ‘no’ vote. The run up to the referendum includes running phony polls, attacking electoral officials and running propaganda through the private media accusing the government of fraud and calling for a ‘no’ vote. Contradictions, the report cynically emphasizes, are of no matter.

The CIA-Embassy reports internal division and recriminations among the opponents of the amendments including several defections from their ‘umbrella group’. The key and most dangerous threats to democracy raised by the Embassy memo point to their success in mobilizing the private university students (backed by top administrators) to attack key government buildings including the Presidential Palace, Supreme Court and the National Electoral Council. The Embassy is especially praiseworthy of the ex-Maoist ‘Red Flag’ group for its violent street fighting activity. Ironically, small Trotskyist sects and their trade unionists join the ex-Maoists in opposing the constitutional amendments. The Embassy, while discarding their ‘Marxist rhetoric’, perceives their opposition as fitting in with their overall strategy.

The ultimate objective of ‘Operation Pincer’ is to seize a territorial or institutional base with the ‘massive support’ of the defeated electoral minority within three or four days (before or after the elections – is not clear. JP) backed by an uprising by oppositionist military officers principally in the National Guard. The Embassy operative concede that the military plotters have run into serous problems as key intelligence operatives were detected, stores of arms were decommissioned and several plotters are under tight surveillance.

Apart from the deep involvement of the US, the primary organization of the Venezuelan business elite (FEDECAMARAS), as well as all the major private television, radio and newspaper outlets have been engaged in a vicious fear and intimidation campaign. Food producers, wholesale and retail distributors have created artificial shortages of basic food items and have provoked large scale capital flight to sow chaos in the hopes of reaping a ‘no’ vote.

President Chavez Counter-Attacks

In a speech to pro-Chavez, pro-amendment nationalist business-people (Entrepreneurs for Venezuela – EMPREVEN) Chavez warned the President of FEDECAMARAS that if he continues to threaten the government with a coup, he would nationalize all their business affiliates. With the exception of the Trotskyist and other sects, the vast majority of organized workers, peasants, small farmers, poor neighborhood councils, informal self-employed and public school students have mobilized and demonstrated in favor of the constitutional amendments.

The reason for the popular majority is found in a few of the key amendments: One article expedites land expropriation facilitating re-distribution to the landless and small producers. Chavez has already settled over 150,000 landless workers on 2 million acres of land. Another amendment provides universal social security coverage for the entire informal sector (street sellers, domestic workers, self-employed) amounting to 40% of the labor force. Organized and unorganized workers’ workweek will be reduced from 40 to 36 hours a week (Monday to Friday noon) with no reduction in pay. Open admission and universal free higher education will open greater educational opportunities for lower class students. Amendments will allow the government to by-pass current bureaucratic blockage of the socialization of strategic industries, thus creating greater employment and lower utility costs. Most important, an amendment will increase the power and budget of neighborhood councils to legislate and invest in their communities.

The electorate supporting the constitutional amendments is voting in favor of their socio-economic and class interests; the issue of extended re-election of the President is not high on their priorities: And that is the issue that the Right has focused on in calling Chavez a ‘dictator’ and the referendum a ‘coup’.

The Opposition

With strong financial backing from the US Embassy ($8 million dollars in propaganda alone according to the Embassy memo) and the business elite and ‘free time’ by the right-wing media, the Right has organized a majority of the upper middle class students from the private universities, backed by the Catholic Church hierarchy, large swaths of the affluent middle class neighborhoods, entire sectors of the commercial, real estate and financial middle classes and apparently sectors of the military, especially officials in the National Guard. While the Right has control over the major private media, public television and radio back the constitutional reforms. While the Right has its followers among some generals and the National Guard, Chavez has the backing of the paratroops and legions of middle rank officers and most other generals.

The outcome of the Referendum of December 2 is a decisive historical event first and foremost for Venezuela but also for the rest of the Americas. A positive vote (Vota ‘Sí’) will provide the legal framework for the democratization of the political system, the socialization of strategic economic sectors, empower the poor and provide the basis for a self-managed factory system. A negative vote (or a successful US-backed civil-military uprising) will reverse the most promising living experience of popular self-rule, of advanced social welfare and democratically based socialism. A reversal, especially a military dictated outcome, will lead to a massive blood bath, such as we have not seen since the days of the Indonesian Generals’ Coup of 1966, which killed over a million workers and peasants or the Argentine Coup of 1976 in which over 30,000 Argentines were murdered by the US backed Generals.

A decisive vote for ‘Sí’ will not end US military and political destabilization campaigns but it will certainly undermine and demoralize their collaborators. On December 2, 2007 the Venezuelans have a rendezvous with history.

James Petras is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by James Petras
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Not Through Annapolis: Noam Chomsky Says Path to Mideast Peace Lies in Popular Organizing Against U.S.-Israeli “Rejectionism”

November 28, 2007

Not Through Annapolis: Noam Chomsky Says Path to Mideast Peace Lies in Popular Organizing Against U.S.-Israeli “Rejectionism”


As the U.S. convenes a Mideast summit in Annapolis, Maryland today, we spend the hour on the Israeli-Palestine conflict with two of the world’s leading thinkers: former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and world-renowned linguist Noam Chomsky. Chomsky says U.S. backing of continued Israeli occupation and annexation of Palestinian land is the biggest obstacle to peace. He says: “The crimes against Palestinians… are so shocking that the only emotionally valid reaction is rage and a call for extreme actions. But that does not help the victims. And, in fact, it’s likely to harm them. We have to face the reality that our actions have consequences, and they have to be adapted to real-world circumstances, difficult as it may be to stay calm in the face of shameful crimes in which we are directly and crucially implicated.” [includes rush transcript]


Leaders from around the world are gathering in Annapolis, Maryland today to take part in a U.S.-sponsored summit on the Middle East. President Bush met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Monday. More than 40 organisations and countries, including Saudi Arabia and Syria, are attending the conference today. Hamas was not invited.A final agenda has not yet been drawn up, but a draft of a joint document was leaked to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. It makes no mention of the situation in Gaza or of core issues like the status of Jerusalem, settlements, borders, the separation wall and Palestinian refugees.

Today, we spend the hour on the Israeli-Palestine conflict with two of the world’s leading thinkers: former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and world-renowned linguist Noam Chomsky. They recently spoke at a conference in Boston, sponsored by Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian organization. The conference was titled “The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel: Highlighting Issues of Justice and Equality.”

We begin with Noam Chomsky. A professor of linguistics at MIT for over half a century, Chomsky is the author of dozens of books on US foreign policy. His most recent is called “Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.” Chomsky spoke before a packed audience at Boston’s historic Old South Church.

  • Noam Chomsky. Professor of linguistics at MIT for over half a century, Chomsky is the author of dozens of books on US foreign policy. His most recent is called “Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.”

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AMY GOODMAN: Leaders from around the world are gathering in Annapolis, Maryland today to take part in a US-sponsored summit on the Middle East. President Bush met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House Monday. More than forty organizations and countries, including Saudi Arabia and Syria, are attending the conference today. Hamas was not invited.

A final agenda has not yet been drawn up, but a draft of a joint document was leaked to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. It makes no mention of the situation in Gaza or of core issues like the status of Jerusalem, settlements, borders, the separation wall and Palestinian refugees.

Today, we spend the hour on the Israel-Palestine conflict with two of the world’s leading thinkers: former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and world-renowned linguist and author Noam Chomsky. They recently spoke at a conference in Boston sponsored by Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian organization. The conference was called “The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel: Highlighting Issues of Justice and Equality.”

We begin today with Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over a half-century. Chomsky is the author of dozens of books on US foreign policy. His most recent is called Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. Noam Chomsky spoke before a packed audience at Boston’s historic Old South Church.

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Before saying a word, I’d like to express some severe personal discomfort, because anything I say will be abstract and dry and restrained. The crimes against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and elsewhere, particularly Lebanon, are so shocking that the only emotionally valid reaction is rage and a call for extreme actions. But that does not help the victims. And, in fact, it’s likely to harm them. We have to face the reality that our actions have consequences, and they have to be adapted to real-world circumstances, difficult as it may be to stay calm in the face of shameful crimes in which we are directly and crucially implicated.

    Well, I’ve been asked to talk about the apartheid paradigm and the proper response here, so I’ll do that, though not without some additional reservations. We have to recognize that there will be no clear answer as to the question of whether the apartheid paradigm applies in Israel or in Boston, right here, or elsewhere. The genre has, after all, only one example: South Africa. And there are similarities elsewhere in many dimensions, and it’s fair enough to bring them up, but there’s very little point debating whether they are close enough in one or another case to count as apartheid, because that will never be settled, we know that in advance.

    I’ve brought up similarities in the past, when I thought that they were appropriate. Actually, the one time I recall clearly was exactly ten years ago. That was at a conference at Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva. It was on the anniversary of the thirtieth year of the military occupation. And in the talk there, I quoted from a standard history of South Africa on elections in the Bantustans, which I’ll read; and just change a few words, and you’ll know what it’s about.

    “South African retention of effective power, through its officials in the Bantustans, its overwhelming economic influence and security arrangements, gave to this initiative of elections elements of a farce. However, unlikely candidates as were the Bantustans for any meaningful independent existence, their expanding bureaucracies provided jobs for new strata of educated Africans tied to the system in a new way and a basis for accumulation for a small number of Africans with access to loans and political influence. Repression, too, could be indigenized through developing homeland policy and army personnel. On the fringe of the Bantustans, border industry growth centers were planned as a means of freeing capital from some of the restraints imposed on industrial expansion elsewhere and to take advantage of virtually captive and particularly cheap labor. Within the homelands, economic development was more a matter of advertising brochures than actual practical activity, though some officials in South Africa understood the needs from their own perspective for some kind of revitalization of the homelands to prevent their economies from collapsing even further.”

    Well, I won’t waste time expressing the similarities to the Occupied Territories, but you can do that quite easily. Ten years ago, that was the optimistic prospect for the Occupied Territories. By now, even that’s remote, and reality is far more grim than it was then. There’s no time and, I presume, no need to review the harrowing details.

    We’re now approaching George Bush’s historic Annapolis conference, as it’s called, on Israel-Palestine, so we can anticipate a flood of deceit and distortions to set the proper framework. And we should be prepared to counter the propaganda assault, which has already begun. Just to pick a couple of examples, Bostonians could read in the Boston Globe a few days ago that at the Taba Conference in January 2001 — now quoting — “Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak accepted ideas floated by President Bill Clinton that would have produced a Palestinian state in 97 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of Gaza,” but these forthcoming gestures failed. The evil Palestinians refused Israel’s generous offers, keeping to their time-honored insistence on seizing defeat from the jaws of victory and proving they’re not partners for negotiation.

    Well, there’s one fragment of truth in this conventional fabrication: there was a conference in Taba. And, in fact, it did come close to a possible settlement, but the rest is pure invention. In particular, the conference was terminated abruptly by Prime Minister Barak. The truth is completely unacceptable, so the facts are either suppressed, as they generally are, or, as in this case, just inverted. And we can expect a good deal more of that. Actually, the truth about the Taba Conference merits attention. That week, in one week in January 2001, that was the one moment in thirty years when the United States and Israel abandoned the rejectionist stance that they have maintained in virtual isolation until the present.

    And that may suggest some thoughts about another familiar fairytale that you could read about a couple of days earlier in the New York Times, where the respected policy analyst and former high government official, Leslie Gelb, wrote that every US administration since 1967 has privately favored returning almost all of the territory to the Palestinians for the purposes of creating a separate Palestinian state. Note the word “privately.” Crucial. We know what the administrations have said publicly. Publicly they have rejected adamantly anything remotely of the sort ever since 1967 — ’76, when the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for a two-state settlement on the international border, incorporating all the relevant wording of UN 242 — it’s the basic diplomatic document to which Washington appeals when it’s convenient. The US veto — it’s worth bearing in mind — is a double veto. One part of the veto is that the actions are barred, of course. And it’s also vetoed from history, as in this case, so you’ll work really hard to find it, even in the scholarly literature.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll come back to Professor Noam Chomsky’s address in Boston, and then we’ll go on to South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They were both speaking at the Sabeel conference.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We return to MIT professor and author Noam Chomsky speaking recently in Boston at the Old South Church at a conference called the Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel.

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Sometimes the public rejection of a separate Palestinian state is more articulate and considerably more extreme, so it takes a George Bush no. 1, who is reputed to be the most hostile to Israel of US presidents. In 1988, as you know, the Palestinian National Council formally accepted a two-state settlement, and the Israeli government responded. This was the coalition government of Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir. They responded by issuing a formal declaration that there can be no additional Palestinian state between Jordan and Palestine — “additional” because for Shimon Peres and his Labor coalition, Jordan already was a Palestinian state. It’s a view that’s attributed to the right wing, but that’s mistaken. This is Shimon Peres. The United States reacted to that with what was called the Baker Plan — James Baker, Secretary of State. The Bush Baker Plan endorsed Israel’s position without qualification and went on to add that any Palestinian negotiators would have to accept that framework, namely no second Palestinian state in addition to Jordan. That’s Bush no. 1, the alleged critic of Israel, and the respected diplomat James Baker. Again, the truth is inconvenient, so virtually none of this was reported, and you’ll have to work — search hard to extricate it from the web of self-serving propaganda that dominates commentary and reporting, of which Leslie Gelb’s article in the New York Times is a typical, but not unusual, example.

    Well, I’m not going to go on with that, but the diplomatic record is one of uniform rejectionism, apart from the week in Taba, and unilateral rejectionism, increasingly so. By now, virtually the entire world agrees on the two-state international consensus of the past thirty years, pretty much along the lines that were almost agreed upon at Taba. That includes all the Arab States, who actually go beyond to call for full normalization of relations with Israel. It includes Iran, although you won’t find that published here, which accepts the Arab League position. It includes Hamas; its leaders have repeatedly endorsed, called for a two-state settlement, even in articles in the US press. That also includes Hamas’s most militant figure, Khaled Meshaal, who’s in exile in Syria. And it includes the rest of the world. Israel rejects it, and the United States backs that rejection fully, not in words just, but in actions.

    Bush no. 2 has gone to new extremes in rejectionism. He’s declared the illegal West Bank settlements must remain part of Israel. That’s in accord with the Clinton position, expressed by his negotiator Dennis Ross, who explained that what he called “Israel’s needs” take precedence over Palestinian wants. That’s Clinton. But the party line remains undisturbed. Facts don’t matter. Bush, Rice and the rest are yearning to realize Bush’s vision of a Palestinian state — somewhere, someplace — persisting in the noble endeavor of the longtime honest broker.

    Well, what’s happened in the past is — of course, rejectionism goes far beyond words. It includes settlement programs, the annexation wall, closures, checkpoints, and so on. Settlements increased steadily right through the Oslo years, peaking actually in Clinton’s last year, the year 2000, right before the Camp David Accords. And the story is now being repeated before our eyes — shouldn’t surprise us.

    So to take just one example, with the Annapolis conference approaching, Israel has just confiscated more Arab land to build a bypass road from Palestinians — I’m quoting now — “in order to push the Palestinian traffic between Bethlehem and Ramallah deep into the desert and effectively bar Palestinians from the central part of the West Bank.” That’s part of the so-called E1 project, which is designed to incorporate the town of Ma’ale Adumim within Israel and effectively to bisect the West Bank. “With such policies” — continuing to quote — “With such policies enacted by the government, the famous Annapolis conference is emptied of all meaning long before it convenes.” This is quotes from the Israeli peace organization Gush Shalom. All of this is backed by the honest brokers in Washington and paid for by US taxpayers, who, incidentally, overwhelmingly join the international consensus, in opposition to their own government. But that’s not what we’re going to hear.

    Well, in fairness, it should be added that there is occasional public criticism of the settlement programs. So in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago, there was a favorable review of a very important study, which has just been translated into English, Lords of the Land by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar, which bitterly condemns the US-backed Israeli programs in the West Bank and the takeover of Israeli political life by their advocates. It’s a strong and important book.

    The review, however, goes on with conventional fairytales. Among them, it tells us that within the Green Line in Israel itself, Israel is what it calls a “vibrant democracy” in which non-Jews have equal rights and, unlike the West Bank, there are no Arab villages made inaccessible, because their roads have been dug up by army bulldozers. Well, again, there’s a fragment of truth in the description. So take, for example, the village Dar al-Hanoun in the so-called Triangle, Wadi Ara, it’s older than the state of Israel, but it’s one of the innumerable unrecognized villages in Israel. So it’s true that there’s no road dug up by bulldozers, and the reason is that there’s no road. No road is permitted by the state authorities, and no construction is permitted. No services are provided. That’s not an unusual situation for Palestinian citizens, who are also effectively barred from over 90% of the land by a complex and intricate web of laws and administrative arrangements. Technically, that was overruled by the high court seven years ago, but, as far as I can determine, only technically. And we may recall that in the United States it took over a century for even formal implementation of the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing equal rights to all persons, and actual implementation of it is still remote a century-and-a-half later.

    Well, let’s turn briefly to the important question, the most important question: what can we do about it? Here, it’s useful to think about the apartheid analogy, and it’s useful to remember a little history.

    In 1963, the UN Security Council declared a voluntary arms embargo on South Africa. That was extended to a mandatory embargo in 1977. And that was followed by economic sanctions and other measures — sometimes officials, countries, cities, towns — some organized by popular movements. Now, not all countries participated. In the United States, the US Congress did impose sanctions over Reagan’s veto, but US trade with South Africa then increased by various evasions, along with concealed support for South African terrorist atrocities in Mozambique and Angola, which took a horrendous toll. It’s about 1.5 million killed and over $60 billion in damage during the Reagan years, the Reagan years of constructive engagement, according to UN analysis. In 1988, the Reagan administration declared Mandela’s African National Congress to be one of the world’s most notorious terrorist groups — that’s 1988 — while it described RENAMO in Mozambique merely as an indigenous insurgent group. That was after it had just killed about 100,000 people, according to the State Department, with, of course, US-backed African support. Thatcher’s record was similar or maybe worse. But most of this was in secret. There was just too much popular opposition.

    And the popular opposition made a difference. There was a very significant anti-apartheid movement decades after the global decision of the Security Council to bring apartheid to an end. In 1965, boycotts and other measures would not have been effective. Twenty years later, they were effective, but that was after the groundwork had been laid by activist, educational and organizing efforts, including within the powerful states, which is what matters in an ugly world.

    Well, in the case of Israel-Palestine, the groundwork has not been laid. The quotes that I just gave are perfectly representative examples; you can fill them out in books, yeah. The kind of popular measures that were effective against apartheid by the late 1980s are not only ineffective in the case of Israel-Palestine today, but in fact sometimes backfire in harming the victims. We’ve seen that over and over. It’s going to continue until the organizing and educational efforts make real progress. It’s not just the United States; the European Union is hardly different. So, for example, the European Union does not bar arms deliveries to Israel. It joined the United States in vicious punishment of Palestinians, because they committed the grave crime of voting the wrong way in a free election. And there was very little internal protest in Europe. Populations support the international consensus, but they don’t react when their governments undermine any hope for its realization.

    Well, in the coming weeks and the longer term, there’s plenty of educational and organizational activity that will have to be carried out among an American population that happens to be largely receptive, though deluged with propaganda and deceit. And it’s not going to be easy. It’s never been easy. But much harder tasks have been accomplished with dedicated and persistent effort.

AMY GOODMAN: MIT Professor Noam Chomsky, speaking recently in Boston at a conference called “The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel,” sponsored by the Palestinian Christian organization Sabeel.

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Invasion – A Comparison Of Soviet And Western Media Performance – Part 1

November 28, 2007
Invasion – A Comparison Of Soviet And Western Media Performance – Part 1
by Nikolai Lanine and Media Lens; November 24, 2007

Introduction

The writer Simon Louvish once told the story of a group of Soviets touring the United States before the age of glasnost. After reading the newspapers and watching TV, they were amazed to find that, on the big issues, all the opinions were the same. “In our country,” they said, “to get that result we have a dictatorship, we imprison people, we tear out their fingernails. Here you have none of that. So what’s your secret? How do you do it?” (Quoted, John Pilger, Tell Me No Lies, Random House, 2004, p.9)

It’s a good question, one being asked by Nikolai Lanine who served with the Soviet Army during its 1979-1989 occupation of Afghanistan, but who now lives and works as a peace activist in Canada. Lanine has spent several years trawling through Soviet-era newspaper archives comparing the propaganda of that time with modern Western media performance.

If the claims of modern professional journalism are to be believed, the similarities should be few and far between. Soviet-era media such as Pravda (meaning, ironically, “The Truth”) are a byword for state-controlled mendacity in the West. Thus Simon Jenkins commented in the Times in the 1980s: “There is a smack of Pravda about this pious self-censorship.” (Jenkins, ‘A new name on the tin mug of scandal,’ The Times, March 19, 1989)

Doris Lessing, recent winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, wrote in 1992:

“Even five, six years ago, Izvestia, Pravda and a thousand other Communist papers were written in a language that seemed designed to fill up as much space as possible without actually saying anything. Because, of course, it was dangerous to take up positions that might have to be defended. Now all these newspapers have rediscovered the use of language. But the heritage of dead and empty language these days is to be found in academia, and particularly in some areas of sociology and psychology.” (Lessing, ‘Questions you should never ask a writer,’ New York Times, October 13, 2007. Originally published June 26, 1992)

This standard Western association of thought control with totalitarian societies is a red herring. In fact, thought control is far more characteristic of ‘democratic’ societies – where state violence is no longer an option, propaganda comes into its own.

After all, it is a remarkable fact that our society never discusses the possibility that a corporate media system monitoring a society dominated by large corporations might be something other than free, open and honest. Consider Lessing’s analysis in the light of these comments from media analyst Danny Schechter:

“We are bombarded with information, although if you look closely, most of it has a similar grammar, a similar focus and similar sources, all revolving around institutions and topics that most viewers admit in survey after survey they don’t really understand.” (Schechter, The More You Watch The Less You Know, Seven Stories Press, 1997, p.43)

Verbiage “designed to fill up as much space as possible without actually saying anything”, in other words, because it is “dangerous to take up positions that might have to be defended”.

How “dangerous”? David Barsamian recently asked Noam Chomsky why one regular New York Times commentator refused to recognise blindingly obvious truths embarrassing to US power. Chomsky responded:

“If he wrote that, then he wouldn‘t be writing for the New York Times. There is a certain discipline that you have to meet. In a well-run society, you don’t say things you know. You say things that are required for service to power.” (Chomsky, What We Say Goes, Penguin, 2007, p.2)

We are very grateful to Nikolai Lanine for agreeing to co-author this piece and for his hard work over several months in making it possible. All quotations from the Soviet press archives were translated from the original by him. We are also grateful to Noam Chomsky who originally put us in touch with Nikolai.

A Humanitarian War of Self-Defence

Inspired by the success of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, US-backed Afghan militants – including future founders of the Taliban movement – stepped up their attacks on Afghan government forces in the late 1970s.

Fearful of the “threat to the security of [the Soviet] southern boarders”(Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, Secrets of the Afghan War, 1991, p.48) and concerned that the conflict might spread to neighbouring Soviet republics – and so risk radicalising their dominantly Muslim populations (accounting for more than 20% of the Soviet population) – the Soviet government invaded. The invasion was a straightforward act of aggression, an attempt to crush a perceived threat to Soviet security and power.

Inevitably, the Soviet government portrayed its invasion as an act of humanitarian intervention initiated at the “request of the [Afghan] government”. (Pravda, April 27, 1980) The aim was “to prevent the establishment of… a terrorist regime and to protect the Afghan people from genocide”, and also to provide “aid in stabilising the situation and the repulsion of possible external aggression”. (Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, p.48)

Once the “terrorists” had been defeated, Afghanistan would be left to become “a stable, friendly country”. The invasion, then, was in the best interests of the Afghan people – the focus of the Soviet government’s benevolent concern.

The Soviet media presented the invasion essentially as a peacekeeping operation intended to prevent enemy atrocities. Krasnaya Zvezda [Red Star], a major Soviet military newspaper, reported in May 1985:

“Since the establishment of this [Soviet] base, [the Mujahadeen]’s predatory extortions, violence, [and] reprisals have stopped; and poor peasants are [now] working the land peacefully.” (Krasnaya Zvezda, May 1, 1985)

The same paper noted:

“Before the arrival of the Soviet soldiers here, [the area] was literally swarming with [insurgents]… [who] were ruthlessly killing… everyone, who was desperately longing for a new life… However, Soviet soldiers arrived, and life in the district has started normalising.” (Krasnaya Zvezda, October 27, 1985)

Voenni Vestnik [Military Bulletin] took it for granted that “…[Soviet] paratroopers are protecting peaceful [Afghan] citizens”. (Voenni Vestnik #4, 1983)

This, of course, was a reversal of the truth that the Soviet superpower was killing large numbers of civilians and causing great suffering to the population.

Pravda insisted that the Afghan army had conducted military operations “at the demand of the local population” and because of “the danger to lives and property of citizens” posed by the resistance. (Pravda, February 7, 1988)

Military personnel constantly echoed government claims that intervention was required “to help the hapless Afghan people to defend their freedom, their future”. (Krasnaya Zvezda, January 5, 1988)

The invasion was also portrayed as an act of self-defence to prevent a “neighboring country with a shared Soviet-Afghan border… [from turning] into a bridgehead for… [Western] aggression against the Soviet state”. (Izvestiya, January 1, 1980) Soviet intervention was also a response to unprovoked violence by Islamic fundamentalists (described as “freedom fighters“ in the West), who, it was claimed, planned to export their fundamentalist struggle across the region “’under the green banner of Jihad’, to the territory of the Soviet Central-Asian republics”. (Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, p.45) The Soviet public were told they faced a stark choice: either fight the menace abroad, or do nothing and later face a much greater threat on home soil that would, geopolitically, “put the USSR in a very difficult situation”. (Sovetskaya Rossia [Soviet Russia], February 11, 1993)

This theme was endlessly stressed by the Soviet media system – Soviet forces were “not only defending Afghan villages. They keep the peace on the borders of [our] homeland”. (Pravda, April 2, 1987) The goal was “peace and security in the region, and also the security of the southern border of the USSR”. (Mezhdunarodnyi Ezhegodnik, 1981, p.224) The unquestioned assumption was that Soviet forces had no option but to act “pre-emptively” in “self-defence”.

Reading Soviet propaganda on these themes inevitably recalls Tony Blair’s famous assertion:

“What does the whole of our history teach us, I mean British history in particular? That if when you’re faced with a threat you decide to avoid confronting it short term, then all that happens is that in the longer term you have to confront it and confront it an even more deadly form.” (ITN News at 6:30, January 31, 2003)

To this day, many former Soviet military and media commentators continue to reinforce similar claims. Former top Soviet military adviser in Afghanistan, General Mahmut Gareev, writes in his book “My Last War” (1996) that the “situation in Afghanistan was of great importance” for the security of the Soviet state (p.363). The “high political, military and strategic interests of the USSR demanded certain actions and decisions”. (p.36) The Soviet leadership was “aware that events in the south of the country were exceptionally important and had great significance for the security of the Soviet state. It was impossible not to react”. (p.35-36)

After the 1979 invasion, the Afghan insurgency repeatedly launched attacks on border areas, including rocket strikes on Soviet towns. Ignoring the fact that these attacks were a +response+ to Soviet aggression, the Soviet media described them as “provocative criminal acts against the Soviet territory”. (Izvestiya, April 20, 1987)

For Democracy And Human Rights – America And Britain Attack

In near-identical fashion, the British and American governments have presented their invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as acts of self-defence which also happen to be in the best interests of the Afghan and Iraqi populations.

In 2001, the then UK defence secretary Geoff Hoon insisted that, in Afghanistan, Britain “was acting in self-defence against Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qa’ida network”. (Ben Russell, ‘Parliament – terrorism debate,’ The Independent, November 2, 2001)

As with the Soviet media, the self-defensive, humanitarian intent behind both invasions are staples of much US-UK media reporting. On the April 12, 2005 edition of the BBC’s Newsnight programme, diplomatic editor Mark Urban discussed the significance of a lessening of Iraqi attacks on US forces since January:

“It is indeed the first real evidence that President Bush’s grand design of toppling a dictator and forcing a democracy into the heart of the Middle East could work.” (Urban, Newsnight, BBC2, April 12, 2005)

When George Bush declared: “we are not conquerors; we’re liberators”, he could have been quoting one of the top Soviet generals in Afghanistan, who said:

“We didn’t set ourselves the task of conquering anyone: we wanted to stabilise the situation.” (Varennikov, CNN Interview, 1998)

In April 2002, Rory Carroll wrote in the Guardian:

“Whoever is trying to destabilise Afghanistan is doing a good job. The broken cities and scorched hills so recently liberated are rediscovering fear and uncertainty.” (Carroll, ‘Blood-drenched warlord’s return,’ The Observer, April 14, 2002)

The point being that, for Carroll, as for George Bush, Afghanistan really had been “liberated” by the world’s superpower.

The New York Times wrote in September 2007:

”Military statistics show that U.S. forces have made some headway at protecting the Iraqi population, but there are questions over whether the gains can be sustained.” (Michael R. Gordon, ‘Assessing the “surge”,’ New York Times, September 8, 2007)

Even in reporting that a large proportion of world opinion wants to see the US leave Iraq, the BBC managed to boost the claimed humanitarian intent:

“Some 39% of people in 22 countries said troops should leave now, and 28% backed a gradual pull-out. Just 23% wanted them to stay until Iraq was safe.” (Most people ‘want Iraq pull-out,’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/6981553.stm, September 7, 2007)

The idea that Iraq might not be safe +until+ US-UK troops leave, is unthinkable to many Western journalists, as it was to Soviet journalists.

In some cases, Western reporting perhaps even surpassed Soviet propaganda. As US tanks entered Baghdad on April 9, 2003, ITN’s John Irvine declared:

“A war of three weeks has brought an end to decades of Iraqi misery.” (ITN Evening News, April 9, 2003)

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States were in response to decades of US-UK violence, and support for violence, in the Middle East. For what it’s worth, Osama bin Laden specifically cited Western oppression in Palestine, Western sanctions against Iraq, and US bases in Saudi Arabia, as reasons for the attacks. And yet, as in the Soviet case, US-UK aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq was justified as a response to attacks that were “unprovoked”. Blair even cited the 9/11 attacks as evidence to this effect on the grounds that the attacks had taken place long before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In both the West and the USSR, the occupations were, and are, presented as fundamentally well-intentioned acts motivated by rational fears and humanitarian aspirations.

In Accordance With International Law

According to the Soviet government, the 1979 invasion was justified by international law (Pravda, December 31, 1979; Gareev, 1996, p.40) and was “in complete accordance with… the 1978 Soviet-Afghan Treaty”. (Izvestiya, January 1, 1980) The Soviet state had to honour its obligations “to provide armed support to the Afghan national army”. (Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, p.47)

In 1988, Izvestiya quoted general Boris Gromov, the commander of Soviet troops in Afghanistan:

“We came to Afghanistan at the end of 1979 at the request of the lawful government [of Afghanistan] and in accordance with the agreement between our countries based on the… Charter of the United Nations.” (Izvestiya, July 2, 1988)

Soviet journalists consistently supported these claims. Pravda and Izvestiya wrote in 1980 that Soviet forces were in Afghanistan “at the request of the [Afghan] government with the only goal to protect the friendly Afghan people” (Pravda, March 16, 1980) and “to help [this] neighbouring country… to repel external aggression”. (Izvestiya, January 3, 1980)

Such views were frequently expressed by Soviet elites and  mainstream journalists. The 1980 issue of International Annual: Politics and Economics, published by the Soviet Academy of Science, observed that the Afghan government “repeatedly asked the USSR” to provide “military aid”. The “Soviet government granted the [Afghan] request, and the limited contingent of Soviet troops was sent into the country,” Mezhdunarodnyi Ezhegodnik noted (1980, p.208). Such actions were entirely in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter and Article 4 of the [Soviet-Afghan] Treaty of December 5, 1978, Ezhegodnik added. (1981, p.224)

Soviet leaders and commentators criticised and debated, not the fundamental +illegality+ of the invasion, but the merit of the +strategies+ for achieving its goals.

Soviet Chief of General Staff Ogarkov argued in 1979 (before the invasion), that the decision to send troops to Afghanistan was “inexpedient” because the initial invasion force of 75,000 was insufficient to the task, which was to “stabilise the situation in Afghanistan.” It was “impossible to achieve this goal with such a [small] force”, he claimed. (Quoted, Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, 1991, p.59). General Gareev, a top Soviet advisor to the Afghan armed forces, argued in his memoirs that “from the military point of view, it was perhaps more advisable to conduct a more massive and powerful invasion of Afghanistan”. (Gareev, 1996, pp.45-46)

In the 1980s, the invasion was seen by many Russians as a “mistake” rather than a crime. The attack was deemed legal and well-intentioned, but poorly executed and at excessive cost to the +Soviets+ – a view that is commonly held to this day. Apart from extremely rare exceptions describing Soviet “participation in the Afghan war” as “criminal” (Trud [Labour] newspaper, January 22, 1992), the invasion has almost never been described as an act of Soviet aggression.

When the US and UK governments talk of their “just cause” in Afghanistan they are essentially repeating the Soviet newspaper Izvestiya which quoted an Afghan official declaring that the Soviet and Afghan soldiers were fighting “for a just cause and happy new life for all Afghan people”. (Izvestiya, January 14, 1986)

Similarly, and almost exactly echoing Izvestiya, an Observer editorial commented in October 2006:

“The UK has responsibilities to the elected democratic government of Iraq, under a UN mandate. Britain must honour its commitments to its partners in Baghdad and in Washington.” (Leader, ‘Blair should heed the general’s reality check,’ The Observer, October 15, 2006)

While the manifest illegality of the 2003 Iraq invasion is presented by newspapers like the Observer as a kind of initial teething problem rendered irrelevant by a subsequent “UN mandate“, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan takes a different view:

“The Security Council’s mandate was for us to help the Iraqi people. I don’t think one can say that the Security Council sanctioned the occupation of Iraq, it merely noted the occupation of Iraq and asked the UN to help the Iraqi people…“ (Mark Disney, On The Edge, August 2007)

The only US/UK responsibility under international law is to leave.

Closely echoing Soviet performance, the US-UK media essentially never challenge the fundamental and obvious illegality of both invasions, focusing also on “mistakes”. Reviewing the situation in Iraq, Timothy Garton Ash wrote in the Guardian:

“… the question being asked here [Washington], even by staunch Republicans who share the president’s goals, is: why has the Bush administration been so incompetent?” (Garton Ash, ‘Iraq’s government has failed, but America’s isn’t doing so well either,’ The Guardian, September 6, 2007)

For Garton Ash, as for most Guardian commentators, the key issue is “incompetence”, not the supreme criminality that is the waging of a war of aggression.

On August 20, 2007, the New York Times website linked to an article titled, ‘The Good War, Still to Be Won,’ with the synopsis: “We will never know just how much better the fight in Afghanistan might be going if it had been managed more competently over the past six years.” (New York Times, August 20, 2007)

This closely echoes Soviet media performance on the 1979 invasion, where there was also close to zero recognition of the illegality of the invasion, as described reflexively in the Western media at the time. Ironically, contemporary US-UK media are closely matching the Soviet propaganda they ridiculed in the 1970s and 1980s.

To their credit, the Soviet media did at least, on occasion, +mention+ the issue of international law. In their book, The Record Of The Paper, Howard Friel and Richard Falk note that in the seventy editorials on Iraq that appeared in the New York Times from September 11, 2001, to March 21, 2003, the words ‘UN Charter’ and ‘international law’ never appeared. (Friel and Falk, The Record Of The Paper: How The New York Times Misreports US Foreign Policy, Verso, 2004, p.15)

We asked Hugh Sykes, a BBC journalist reporting from Baghdad, for his opinion on the issue of legality in relation to the invasion of Iraq. Sykes replied:

“The Americans et al always say they are here ‘at the invitation of the democratically elected Iraqi government’.

“It certainly WAS an illegal occupation before the elections in 2005, but is it still illegal?

“I tend not to put phrases like that into reports because I think I should stick to reporting events and providing analysis when asked.” (Email to Media Lens, September 9, 2007)

Imagine a comparable comment from a BBC journalist in the 1980s:

‘The Soviets et al always say they are here ‘at the invitation of the democratically elected Afghan government’. It certainly WAS an illegal occupation before… but is it still illegal?’

In fact, of course, Western reporters were never in doubt about the truth of the Soviet invasion. When we conducted a search of newspaper archives, we found, for example, dozens of media references in the 1980s to the Soviet “puppet government” in Kabul. The New York Times commented in 1988:

“Soviet troop withdrawal will leave behind a puppet Government whose ministries are laced with Soviet ‘’advisers.’” (A.M. Rosenthal, ‘The great game goes on,’ New York Times, February 12, 1988)

In February 1990, Tony Allen-Mills reported for the Independent:

“Many former freedom fighters have made their peace with the puppet government left behind by the departing Soviet army.” (Allen-Mills, Out of Kabul: ‘Why pride must not come before a Najibullah fall,’ The Independent, February 19, 1990)

By contrast, the same newspaper reported of the Taliban in June 2006:

“Their focus is the ‘puppet’ government of Mr Karzai and its complicity in what is portrayed as the Western military persecution of ordinary Afghans.” (Tom Coghlan, ‘Karzai questions Nato campaign as Taliban takes to hi-tech propaganda,’ The Independent, June 23, 2006)

Readers will search long and hard before they find an example of a news reporter describing the current Afghan government as a “puppet government” without the use of inverted commas.

As for the idea that BBC journalists avoid controversial “phrases” and merely “stick to reporting events“, the day after Sykes’ reply the BBC website observed:

“The surge was designed to allow space for political reconciliation…” (‘US surge “failure” says Iraq poll, BBC online, September 10, 2007; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6983841.stm)

It is not, in fact, less controversial to suggest that the massive increase in US violence “was designed to allow space for political reconciliation”, than it is to argue that the invasion was illegal.

Part 2 will follow shortly…

Venezuela’s Bad Example

November 28, 2007
ZNet | Venezuela
Venezuela’s Bad Example
by Alberto Cruz; Ceprid; November 27, 2007

The Venezuelan political process, that people there describe as Bolivarian, is systematically demonized not just by the bourgeois media but also by some supposed progressives. They tend to focus more on the figure of Chavez than on what that deepening social change means for the great mass of people marginalised and oppressed since independence from the Spanish colonial centre so as to exalt the political, economic – and white – elite. The world is full of cases of dubious leadership – not so Chavez, consistently re-elected and supported by a broad swathe of the Venezuelan people – so the great imperial power and its allies are by no means upset when suspicions are thrown up about the Venezuelan President.

So what is going on then? Well, in Venezuela what is happening is nothing less than the hard expression of a class struggle where although, for the moment, the correlation of forces does not clearly favour the people, at least they enjoy a self-evident equilibrium with the oligarchy. And this struggle transcends the country itself, something capitalists all over the world have grasped, especially opinion makers writing out of preconceived prejudices and stereotypes and often from a clear class position stemming from neo-colonialist habits of mind.

Nobody discusses whether or not the Venezuelan process is rocking the world economic system, whether its victory throws doubt on neo-liberal globalization or whether – as leading US analysts like Alexander Cockburn of the Counterpunch alternative website think – it is helping more than anything else to undermine the world leadership of the US. An example of this last point came in recent days during the OPEC meeting in Riyadh (the Saudi Arabian capital). The mere suggestion by Venezuela that the oil cartel might look at whether the dollar should be a reference currency, given its increasing weakness, set off alarms everywhere.

It is since Chavez became President back in 1998 that OPEC has become one of Venezuelan foreign policy’s main concerns, firstly, by revitalizing a declining organization and by standardizing joint production to control the oil price per barrel. For the US and the West in general , US$30 is considered a correct price, without taking into account countries’ different extraction costs : from the cheapest for Saudi Arabia to the most costly for Iran. Venezuela is between the two, but considered that, on balance, a fair price for everyone was above US$50.

In the second place, Venezuela launched an internal campaign within OPEC to democratize the Development and Cooperation Fund (worth US$40bn) and to see that the fund did not depend exclusively on Saudi Arabia, which consistently put the management of that fund in the hands of US and European businesses. Venezuela won that battle, so now not only US and European firms manage the fund, but the OPEC countries themselves and other non-Western bloc companies from outside the oil cartel. One of the star projects of this new management regime now is its focus on social problems affecting OPEC countries, for example how to avoid desertification in the sources of the Niger river. Moves like this have led to Venezuela being accepted as an observer country to the Organization of African Unity.

But there is more. Venezuela is overturning traditional trade exchange by setting up organizations like Petrocaribe and fomenting barter between States. As Latin American analysts have noted, without Petrocaribe, the 16 member countries – impoverished, lacking infrastructure and dependent on international aid – would today, with the exception of Cuba and Venezuela, face a tragic, dead-end outlook with astronomical prices for oil and its derivatives, along with increased world food prices as a result of production geared to bio-fuels. The extent of the savings on these countries’ oil bills is already around US$450 million since they freed themselves from oil market intermediaries and speculators.

With barter (oil for Cuban doctors, for Argentine meat and ships, for Uruguayan milk and cheese etc.), Venezuela has started a direct exchange of goods that breaks World Trade Organization norms and hands weaker countries a bigger role when it comes to selling their produce and raw materials. Under “free market” rules, impoverished countries and raw materials producers always see their exports at the mercy of price fluctuations based not so much on demand as on the political interests of the big political-financial corporations. Only understanding this really explains the recent revolt by Southern countries during the WTO negotiations on agricultural matters, insisting the developed countries make fewer demands and on fair treatment not just with regard to prices but also to the losses they suffer through rich country subsidies to their own agricultural products, as in the case of the US, at the same time as they advocate absolute market freedom for everyone else.

As if all that were not enough, if Venezuela manages to set up the Bank of the South, it will make the International Monetary Fund something for the history books. The reorientation announced by the IMF, as well as its readiness not to impose loans conditioned on structural adjustment, but rather to be more flexible towards countries, would not have been possible without Venezuela as an important alternative source of finance, much less onerous than the IMF or the World Bank. Argentina’s economic success is owed in large part to Venezuelan economic aid, which allowed Kirchner’s government to follow policies outside the recommendations of the IMF.

The more or less radical left turn happening in Latin America following the Venezuelan example is a result of neoliberalism’s macro-economic failure which has enormously increased inequality and poverty for the great majority while the same old minority has become even more wealthy. The fact that certain social initiatives are now being launched, as during the recent Ibero-American Summit – is down to the processes described above. Without Venezuela’s “bad example” neither the Spanish government nor the Latin American ones now praised by the mass media would have moved in that direction.

Now one can hardly wait for these governments fighting Venezuela’s bad example to bring in a 6 hour working day; to recognise social property alongside public and private property; to ensure that public officials become subject to  evaluation by means of public referendum halfway through their period, and dismissed if that is what people want; that they set up community councils and see to it that people in any municipality  can formulate, execute and evaluate public policies adopted by the community with or without support from the municipal authorities. Some of these matters are included in the proposal for constitutional reform to be voted on this December 2nd. If it is approved it will reinforce long term social and political democratization, especially in foreign policy.

And that is what upsets the gurus of globalization, including the Spanish companies so warmly defended over the last few days. When these supposedly democracy-loving businessmen talk about “legal insecurity” in some countries and mention always Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, they do so from a neocolonial premise, criticizing the approval of laws in those countries by means of which those peoples win back control of their energy resources. The proposed changes in Venezuela’s constitutional reform reaffirm the recovery of the country’s wealth, although they receive scanting criticism from parts of the Venezuelan Left, at the same time they open up popular participation in ways unknown to most of the world, including Europe.

There is no attack in Venezuela against capitalism as such, but there is an effort to build an alternative in the sense of creating a society in which the explicit aim is not the growth of capital or of the material means of production but rather the development of human capital. So long as the Bolivarian movement was not building that alternative there were no important desertions from its right wing. Now there are, because the class struggle is deepening and everyone takes their side.

James Petras is quite right when he states, “The opposition coalition of the wealthy and privileged fear the constitutional reforms because these should hand a larger percentage of their benefits to the working class, they will lose their monopoly on market transactions – which will pass to public companies – and the political power they now enjoy will be displaced towards local community councils and towards the executive power. While the right wing and liberal media of Venezuela, Europe and the USA have invented shocking accusations against the “authoritarian” reforms, the truth is that the amendments offer a deeper and wider social democracy”. That is the bad example Venezuela is giving, the bad example of the good left.

Alberto Cruz is a journalist, political analyst and writer specializing in International Relations

albercruz (at) eresmas.com

translation copyleft tortilla con sal

The Global Impact of Bush’s War Crimes in Iraq: King Midas in Reverse by Walter C. Uhler

November 28, 2007

The Global Impact of Bush’s War Crimes in Iraq: King Midas in Reverse by Walter C. Uhler

by Walter C. Uhler
The Smirking Chimp
Nov 26 2007

Journalist Robert Fisk recently explained the Bush/Cheney abomination in the Middle East quite succinctly, when he asserted: “The world in the Middle East is growing darker and darker by the hour. Pakistan. Afghanistan. Iraq. “Palestine”. Lebanon. From the borders of Hindu Kush to the Mediterranean, we – we Westerners that is – are creating (as I have said before) a hell disaster. Next week, we are supposed to believe in peace in Annapolis, between the colorless American apparatchik and Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister who has no more interest in a Palestinian state than his predecessor Ariel Sharon.” [Robert Fisk, “Darkness falls on the Middle East,” Independent.co.uk, 24 Nov. 2007]

On Friday, November 23rd, a bomb exploded in a pet market in central Baghdad. It followed a “brazen attack against U.S.-backed Sunni fighters on the southern belt of Baghdad” and a mortar and rocket attack on the Green Zone a day earlier that constituted “the biggest attack against the U.S.-protected area in weeks.” [Bushra Juhi, “Twin bombings Kill at Least 26 in Iraq,” Associated Press, 23 Nov. 2007]

You might keep such information in mind whenever you hear dishonest Republicans and feckless Democrats shy away from the awful truth about the “hell disaster” in Iraq and the Middle East.

And the awful truth is this: During the seven months preceding the Bush administration’s reckless, immoral, illegal and incompetent invasion of Iraq, the architects of that criminal war — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Wolfowitz, Feith and Perle — lied repeatedly about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and links to al Qaeda, grossly exaggerated both the welcome American troops would receive and the ease with which democracy could be established in Iraq, while fraudulently understating the projected costs of their evil venture. In a word, our “MBA President” and his cronies failed to exercise due diligence with the American people.

Yet, while these criminals were preparing to commit their crime, critics of the proposed invasion were struggling to be heard, struggling to penetrate the herd mentality of the mainstream news media – which, except for some reporters at Knight Ridder, found itself shocked and awed by the administration’s war mongering propaganda. As we now know, post-invasion facts on the ground vindicated the critics, not only for doubting the Bush administration’s bogus claims about Iraq’s WMD and links to al Qaeda, but also for questioning the very need for preemptive (actually preventive) war and the very feasibility of forcing democracy at gunpoint.

Unfortunately, more than 31,000 American soldiers have been killed or wounded in the course of executing Bush’s criminal plans. Add to that figure “at least 20,000 U.S. troops who were not classified as wounded during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan…[now] found with signs of brain injuries.” [Gregg Zoroya, “Combat Brain Injuries Multiply,” USA Today, Nov. 23, 2007]

Moreover, although some 3,875 soldiers have died in Iraq since March 2003, 6,256 US veterans committed suicide in 2005 alone. According to CBS News, the suicide rate among veterans is double that of the civilian population and veterans aged 20 through 24 – those caught up in Bush’s war – had the highest suicide rates among all veterans. Finally, consider that almost 8,000 soldiers deserted the US Army during fiscal years 2006 and 2007.

Beyond such casualties, Bush’s war has strained the U.S. Army to the breaking point. As Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George Casey recently observed, “The current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply.” According to Senator Jack Reed and security analyst Michele A. Flournoy, “Roughly half of the 2000 and 2001 West Point classes have already decided to leave the Army” citing multiple, back-to-back combat tours as the primary reason. Moreover, “roughly half of the U.S. Army’s equipment is in Iraq or Afghanistan, where the harsh environment and the high tempo of operations are wearing out equipment at up to 9 times the normal rate.”

Then, there’s the exorbitant cost of Bush’s war of choice. According to Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee, when the hidden costs of Bush’s war are considered, the total economic cost has exceeded $1.5 trillion. The surge in the price of oil, from approximately $37 per barrel at the beginning of the war to over $90 in recent weeks, constitutes a major portion of those hidden, but very real costs.

Finally, citizens of the United States have seen their liberties subverted by the Bush administration in the name of national security. Through the abuse of signing statements, the use of torture and the embrace of illegal wiretapping the Bush administration has moved America creepily closer to those horrid dictatorships its citizens once derided.

Yet, the costs to the United States constitute mere chump change when compared with the price paid by Iraqis. Life in Iraq during Bush’s reign of terror has been far worse than life was during the last years of Saddam’s brutal regime. Consider the national humiliation associated with America’s successful invasion, its brutal occupation and its degrading torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

According to Robert Dreyfuss and Tom Engelhardt, “There are, by now, perhaps a million dead Iraqis, give or take a few hundred thousand. If a typical wounded-to-dead ratio of 3:1 holds, then you’re talking about up to 4 million war, occupation, and civil-war casualties. Now, add in the estimated 2-2.5 million who went into exile, fleeing the country, and another estimated 2.3 million who have had to leave their homes and go into internal exile as Iraqi communities hand neighborhoods were ‘cleansed.’”

As columnist Cesar Chelala recently wrote in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “One child dies every five minutes because of the war, and many more are left with severe injuries. Of the estimated 4 million Iraqis who have been displaced in Iraq or lest the country, 1.5 million are children.” Quoting from an assessment by 100 British and Iraqi doctors, Chelala adds: “sick or injured children, who could otherwise be treated by simple means, are left to die in the hundreds because they don’t have access to basic medicines and other resources. Children who have lost hands, feet and limb are left without prostheses. Children with grave psychological distress are left untreated.”

Chronic shortages in electricity persist. And, as Bobby Cain Calvan of McClatchy Newspapers reported on November 18th, “the percentage of Iraqis without access to decent water supplies has risen from 50 percent to 70 percent since the start of the U.S.-led war…The portion of Iraqis lacking decent sanitation…[has been] even worse – 80 percent.” Yet, the horrors in Iraq have been grossly underreported by America’s mainstream news media. As Dahr Jamail concludes in his new book, Beyond the Green Zone, “If the people of the United States had the real story about what their government has done in Iraq, the occupation would already have ended.” [p. 291]

One might ask how Bush and his co-conspirators are able to sleep at night, given all this blood and carnage on their hands. Why do they remain in office? Why haven’t they been impeached? Why haven’t they been thrown in prison?

But, then, one also might ask why the many conservative scholars and pundits who got everything so wrong — especially those despicable neo-cons – still fill opinion pages and the airwaves with their vile excuses for yet more war. Their latest con is to argue that the surge is working. Some dishonest clowns even mention the word “victory.”

Of course, they spew yet more propaganda designed to maintain or bolster the 70 percent of Republicans who still support Bush’s criminal war. (How different are they from Hitler’s die-hard supporters during World War II?) For example, one of the more obnoxious and consistently wrong neo-cons, Charles Krauthammer, waxed euphoric in his November 23rd column about just how well the surge was going in Iraq.

Yet, the 23rd was the day of the pet market blast, which had followed the previous day’s “brazen attack” in the southern belt of Baghdad and the rocket attack on the Green Zone. Those attacks prompted two reporters from the Los Angeles Times to suggest that “insurgents appeared intent on sending a message to U.S. and Iraqi officials that their recent expressions of optimism on the nation’s security were premature.”

But, then, consider the source. This is the very same Krauthammer who wrote in November 2001: [T]he way to tame the Arab street is not with appeasement and sweet sensitivity but with raw power and victory….The elementary truth that seems to elude the experts again and again…is that power is its own reward. Victory changes everything, psychology above all. The psychology in the [Middle East] is now one of fear and deep respect for American power. Now is the time to use it.” [Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism, p 93]

Tell me, Mr. Krauthammer, how’s the “fear and deep respect” playing out in the Middle East and the world in November 2007? How stupid could you be? And why are you still employed by the Washington Post?

The Post’s Thomas Ricks provides a more honest assessment. “I just got back from Baghdad last week, and it was clear that violence has decreased. But it hasn’t gone away. It is only back down to the 2005 level – which to my mind is kind of like moving from the eighth circle of hell to the fifth….I’ve interviewed dozens of officers and none were willing to say we are winning. What they were saying is that at least now, we are not losing.” [Editor & Publisher, Nov. 24, 2007] Yet, if you recall that, on May 12, 2004, General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, told a Senate committee, “There is no way to militarily lose in Iraq. There’s also no way to militarily win in Iraq,” you might want to question why we’re still there.

Anthony Cordesman recently published a more realistic appraisal of the surge. Titled, “Violence versus Political Accommodation: The True Elements of Victory in Iraq,” Cordesman credits the surge for playing a secondary role in reducing violence in Iraq. But he cautions: “It is still far from clear that US success against al Qaeda in the rest of central Iraq has brought stability and security to any mixed area where there is serious tension and violence. If anything, the fact that the ’surge’ has not halted the pace of Iraqi displacements and has often created a patchwork of Arab Shiite versus Arab Sunni divisions in towns and areas that extend far beyond Baghdad, has laid the ground for further struggles once the US is gone.” [p. 11]

Cordesman adds: “Most of Southern Iraq is now under the control of competing local and regional Shiite gangs,” which have become the “equivalent of rival mafias.” [p. 13]

More significantly, Cordesman concludes: “The US cannot win the war; it can only give Iraq’s central government and those leaders interested in national unity and political accommodation the opportunity to do so.” [p. 10] [N]o amount of American military success can – by itself – have strategic meaning.” [p. 13]

Finally, those who propagandize that the “surge” is working are advised to contemplate the work of MIT economist Michael Greenstone. As summarized in the December issue of The Atlantic, Greenstone has examined the financial markets in Iraq, especially the market for Iraqi state bonds. He found that “from the start of the surge earlier this year until September, there was a ’sharp decline’ in the price of Iraqi state bonds, signaling a ‘40% increase in the market’s expectation that Iraq will default’ on its obligations.”

The Atlantic article goes on to note: “Since the bonds are sold on international markets (hedge funds hold a large portion), where the profit motive eliminates personal and political bias, the trajectory of bond prices may be the most accurate indicator available for assessing America’s military strategy. And the data suggest that ‘the surge is failing to pave the way toward a stable Iraq and may in fact be undermining it.” [The Atlantic Dec. 2007, p. 26]

Consequently, were we merely limiting ourselves to the catastrophes that has bedeviled both the United States and Iraq as a consequence of Bush’s war, we’d be forced to conclude that Bush’s national security policy has the touch of King Midas in reverse. Everything Bush touches turns to shit!

Unfortunately, as serious pre-war scholars and critics feared and predicted, Bush’s King Midas touch in reverse has extended far beyond Iraq and the United States. Simply recall their warnings about the war’s impact on the price of oil, their fears that such a war might undermine US efforts against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, their concern that Bush’s invasion might inflame hatred of America throughout the Muslim world, their suspicions that Iran might be the principal beneficiary of a US-led invasion that placed Iraqi Shiites in power and their worries about how a destabilized Iraq might provoke intervention by it neighbors, Iran, Syria and Turkey, and thus embroil the entire region.

Thanks to the perverse King Midas touch of the Bush administration, Iran has indeed emerged as the most influential player in Iraq and Turkey is poised to invade Iraqi Kurdistan. Moreover, as Anne Applebaum has written in the Washington Post: [T] he collateral damage inflicted by the war on America’s relationships with the rest of the world is a lot deeper and broader than most Americans have realized.”

In support of Ms. Applebaum’s assertion, simply recall the words uttered to Condoleezza Rice in October 2007 by Tanya Lokshina, chairwoman of the Demos Center for Information and Research, a Russian human rights organization: The United States had “lost the high moral ground.” “The American voice alone doesn’t work anymore…The Russians are not influenced by it.” [Steven Lee Myers, New York Times Oct. 15, 2007]

Finally, mention also must be made of another catastrophe feared and predicted by the pre-war critics of Bush’s invasion, one which now looms on the horizon: the destabilization of nuclear armed Pakistan. As Robert Parry wrote in September 2002, “One reason a war with Iraq might increase, rather than decrease, the danger to the American people is that the invasion could spread instability across the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world…[impacting] most notably the dictatorship of Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan.”

As Parry observed: “Today, even as Musharraf cooperates with the U.S. war on terror, his regime is confronted by pro-al Qaeda factions both inside and outside his government. Many past and present Pakistani military officers continue to sympathize with the fundamentalists.” [Robert Parry, “Bush’s Nuclear Gamble,” [consortiumnews.com, September 30, 2002]

As if describing Bush’s reverse Midas touch in Pakistan, Juan Cole has observed: “The pressure the Bush administration put on the Pakistani military government to combat Muslim militants in that country weakened the legitimacy of [military dictator Pervez] Musharraf, whom the Pakistani public increasingly viewed as an oppressive American puppet.” Not content with such long-term undermining of its client dictator, the Bush administration then “brokered a deal whereby [Benazir] Bhutto was allowed to return to Pakistan.” But, “the huge explosion that greeted Bhutto in her home turf of Karachi…suggests that her arrival is hardly the remedy for Pakistan’s instability.” [Cole, Salon.com Oct. 24, 2007]

Thus, given its profoundly devastating King Midas touch that has rippled around the world, one can confidently predict that the Bush administration will further embolden militant Muslims and secure its legacy as the worst presidency in U.S. history by attacking Iran, thereby bringing America’s staggering and tottering empire crashing to the ground. Like Lenin, during the pre-revolutionary period in Tsarist Russia, it would be tempting to say, “the worse, the better” for America. Except: (1) I don’t believe the loss of empire will prompt Americans to wake up and (2) America’s fervent Bush-supporting crackpot Christians, seeing evidence for their long awaited Rapture and End Times in the calamities actually wrought by Bush, already have a stranglehold on Lenin’s dictum.

(More about such crackpot Christians in a future article).

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War Paint and Lawyers

November 28, 2007

War Paint and Lawyers:
Rainforest Indians versus Big Oil

Published <!– by Greg Palast –> November 26th, 2007 in Articles

Greg Palast investigates for BBC Newsnight
Chevron: “Nobody has proved that crude causes cancer.”

Tuesday, November 27, 10:30pm GMT [5:30pm New York Time] – live on BBC2 TV or on the net at www.BBC.co.uk/Newsnight.
Greg getting in Canoe

BBC Television Newsnight has been able to get close-in film of a new Cofan Indian ritual deep in the heart of the Amazonian rainforest. Known as “The Filing of the Law Suit,” natives of Ecuador’s jungle, decked in feathers and war paint and heavily armed with lawyers, are filmed presenting a new complaint in their litigation seeking $12 billion from Chevron Inc., the international oil goliath.

It would all be a poignant joke – except that the indigenous tribe is suddenly the odds-on favorite to defeat the oil company known for naming its largest tanker, “Condoleezza,” after former Chevron director, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Cofan Leader CriolloRice.

For Newsnight, reporter Greg Palast, steps (somewhat inelegantly) into a dug-out log canoe to seek out the Cofan in their rainforest village to investigate their allegations. Palast discovers stinking pits of old oil drilling residue leaking into drinking water – and meets farmers whose limbs are covered in pustules.

The Cofan’s leader, Emergildo Criollo, tells Palast that when Texaco Oil, now part of Chevron, came to the village in 1972, it obtained permission to drill by offering the Indians candy and cheese. The indigenous folk threw the funny-selling cheese into the jungle.

Criollo says his three-year son died from oil contamination after, “He went swimming, then began vomiting blood.”

Flying out of the rainforest, past the Andes volcanoes, Palast gets the other side of the story in Ecuador’s capitol, Quito. “It’s the largest fraud in history!” asserts Chevron lawyer Jaime Varela reacting to the Cofan law suits against his company. Chevron-Texaco, Varela insists, cleaned up all its contaminated oil pits when it abandoned the country nearly 15 years ago – except those pits it left in the hands of Ecuador’s own state oil company.

What about the Indian kids dying of cancer? Texaco lawyer Rodrigo Perez asks, “And it’s the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States, in Europe, in Quito? If there is somebody with cancer there, [the Cofan parents] must prove [the deaths were] caused by crude or by petroleum industry. And, second, they have to prove that it is OUR crude – which is absolutely impossible.” The Texaco man stated, “Scientifically, nobody has proved that crude causes cancer.”

Even if the Indians can prove their case and win billions to clean up the jungle, collecting the cash is another matter. Chevron has removed all its assets from Ecuador.Sludge in Ecuador

But, this week, the political planet tilts toward the natives as Alberto Acosta takes office as President of Ecuador’s new Constitutional Assembly. Newsnight catches up with Acosta – who gives Chevron a tongue-lashing. “Chevron is responsible for environmental and social destruction in the Amazon. And that’s why they’re on trial.”

“He LOVES Chavez”
Little Ecuador does not seem like much of a match against big Chevron – whose revenue exceeds the entire GDP of the Andean nation. However, behind Little Ecuador is Huge Venezuela – and its larger-than-life leader, Hugo Chavez. “Acosta,” complains one local pundit to the BBC, “loves – LOVES – Chavez.”

And apparently, the feeling is mutual. That is, Chavez sees in Ecuador’s new government, which won election campaigning to the tune of the Twisted Sister hit, We’re Not Gonna Take it Anymore, a new ally in his fight with George Bush over control of Latin hearts and minds – and energy.

Chevron LawyersChevron-Texaco’s largest new oil reserves are in Venezuela; Venezuela stands with Ecuador; and Ecuador now stands with its “affectados,” the Indians and farmers claiming the poisons in their bodies trace right back to the Texaco star.

Suddenly, the David-versus-Goliath story of Little Indians versus Big Oil is becoming part of the larger conflict between Uncle Sam and Uncle Hugo. The outcome is now a cliff-hanger. Indeed, Newsnight has learned that this month, Chevron will face a new legal challenge by Cofan attorneys before US securities regulators to investigate whether the company has fully disclosed to shareholders the massive potential legal liability from the equatorial Rumble in the Jungle.

Watch the story live on BBC2 or, in the US, on the net at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/default.stm after broadcast – or via a link from www.GregPalast.com. WARNING: The day’s news events may require Newsnight to delay broadcast to another evening.

Al-Qaeda kingpin: I trained 9/11 hijackers

November 27, 2007

Al-Qaeda kingpin: I trained 9/11 hijackers &#150

From his Turkish jail, a senior terrorist claims a key role in atrocities around the world

IN a small windowless cell lit by a single light bulb, Louai al-Sakka sits isolated from the world and fellow inmates for 24 hours a day.

His concrete box is in the bowels of Kandira, a high-security F-type prison 60 miles east of Istanbul, which was built to house Turkey’s most dangerous criminals.

The prison has been criticised by human rights groups such as Amnesty International. The guards control everything, including the cell’s light switch.

Sakka’s only visitor is Osman Karahan, a lawyer who shares his fervent support for militant Islamic jihad.

Since being convicted as an Al-Qaeda bomb plotter last year, Sakka has decided to reveal his alleged role in some of the key plots of recent years, providing a potential insight into the unanswered questions surrounding them. His story is also one of a globetrotting terrorist in an organisation that is truly multinational.

He is an enigma and, despite his involvement in three terrorist outrages involving British citizens, he is virtually unknown in this country.

By his own account he is a senior Al-Qaeda operative who was at the forefront of the insurgency in Iraq, took part in the beheading of Briton Kenneth Bigley and helped train the 9/11 bombers. He has been jailed in connection with the bombing of the British consulate in Istanbul.

Certainly, the intelligence services have shown a keen interest in the 34-year-old Syrian who says he was in Iraq alongside Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the notorious insurgent who was killed last year in a United States air-strike.

But, as with many things in the world of Al-Qaeda, there might be smoke and mirrors. Some experts believe that Sakka could be overstating his importance to the group, possibly to lay a false track for western agencies investigating his terrorist colleagues.

Over the past three weeks The Sunday Times has conducted a series of interviews with Sakka through his lawyer. We were given a number of documents including a memoir in Arabic of his life.

So who is the mysterious Al-Qaeda operative in the concrete cell and what do his claims tell us about the terrorist network and his role within it?

He was travelling under the Turkish name Erkan Ozer – one of his 16 false identities – when he was arrested in the southeastern town of Diyarbakir in August 2005. His downfall was as a result of a nighttime explosion that caused a fire in his apartment a week earlier. When fire-fighters reached the blaze they found a do-it-yourself bomb factory with vats of hydrogen, bags of aluminium powder and 6kg of plastic explosives.

Sakka had been planning to sink Israeli cruise ships off the Turkish coast using motorised dinghies. Despite having plastic surgery to disguise his face, he was easily identified by the Turkish authorities.

Police later discovered documents linking him to the Istanbul suicide bombings that killed at least 27 people after trucks exploded outside the British consulate, the HSBC bank and two synagogues. The court indictment described him as “a senior member of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organisation tasked with special high-level missions”. It said he had met Osama Bin Laden, who had told him to organise attacks in Turkey.

But was this all? Last week his lawyer claimed his scope was much wider. “He was the nnumber one networker for Al-Qaeda in Europe, Iran, Turkey and Syria,” Karahan said.

According to the documents provided by Karahan, Sakka grew up in the ancient city of Aleppo, Syria, the son of a wealthy factory owner, and followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming the general manager of a company that sold one of Syria’s most popular washing-up liquids. But he was drawn to the Islamic cause from a young age, according to his memoir.

His politics were shaped by the conflict between President Hafez al-Assad, the former Syrian dictator, and the Muslim Brotherhood, an underground Islamic group. When Sakka was nine, Assad quelled an uprising by the brotherhood in the town of Hama by killing an estimated 10,000 people.

“Like any other Muslim boy he was deeply affected by these events,” says his memoir.

When the Bosnian war opened a new front for jihadists in the early 1990s, Sakka left his job and headed for the conflict. He stayed in Turkey initially and established the “mujaheddin service office”, which provided medical support for Bosnia and later the two Chechen wars.

It soon became clear that more than medical help was needed. Sakka set up intensive physical training programmes in the Yalova mountain resort area, near Istanbul, to prepare the scores of young men heading for the conflicts. The memoir claims the volunteers came from Europe, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the Gulf, North Africa and South America.

The Chechens needed trained fighters. Sakka was telephoned by Ibn al-Khattab, the late militia leader controlling the foreign fighters against the Russians. Khattab requested that Sakka’s trainees should be sent on to Afghanistan for military training because “conditions are tough”.

This brought Sakka into contact with Abu Zubaydah, a high-ranking Al-Qaeda member, who ran a large terrorist training camp near the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Sakka was later to be sentenced in ab-sentia for involvement in the foiled Jordanian millennium bomb attacks in 2000 along with Zubaydah.

One of Sakka’s chief roles was to organise passports and visas for the volunteers to make their way to Afghanistan through Pakistan. His ability to keep providing high-quality forged papers made Turkey a main hub for Al-Qaeda movements, his lawyer says. The young men came to Turkey pretending to be on holiday and Sakka’s false papers allowed them to “disappear” overseas.

Turkish intelligence were aware of unusual militant Islamic activity in the Yalova mountains, where Sakka had set up his camps. But they posed no threat to Turkey at the time.

But a bigger plot was developing. In late 1999, Karahan says,a group of four young Saudi students went to Turkey to prepare for fighting in Chechnya. “They wanted to be good Muslims and join the jihad during their holidays,” he said.

They had begun a path that was to end with the September 11 attacks on America in 2001. They were: Ahmed and Hamza al-Ghamdi who hijacked the plane that crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center; their companion Saeed al-Ghamdi whose plane crashed in a Pennsylvanian field; and Nawaf al-Hazmi who died in the Pentagon crash.

They undertook Sakka’s physical training programme in the mountains and later were joined by two of the other would-be hijackers: Majed Moqed, who also perished in the Pentagon crash, and Satam al-Suqami, who was in the first plane that hit the north tower.

Moqed and Suqami had been hand-picked by Al-Qaeda leaders in Saudi Arabia specifically for the twin towers operation, Sakka says, and were en route to Afghanistan. Sakka persuaded the other four to go to Afghanistan after plans to travel to Chechnya were aborted because of problems crossing the border. “Sakka [told Zubaydah] he liked the four men and recommended them,” said Karahan.

Before leaving, all six received intensive training together, forming a cell led by Suqami, which was similar to the Hamburg group run by Mohammed Atta, another ringleader in the 9/11 attacks.

At one point, Sakka claims the entire group were arrested by police in Yalova after their presence raised suspicions. They were interrogated for a day but eventually released because there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

Some of Sakka’s account is corroborated by the US government’s 9/11 Commission. It

found evidence that four of the hijackers – whom Sakka says he trained – had initially intended to go to Chechnya from Turkey but the border into Georgia was closed. Sakka had prepared fake visas for the group’s travel to Pakistan and arranged their flights from Istanbul’s Ataturk airport. The group of four went to the al-Farouq camp near Kandahar and the other two to Khaldan, near Kabul, an elite camp for Al-Qaeda fighters.

When Moqed and Suqami returned to Turkey, Sakka employed his skills as a forger to scrub out the Pakistani visa stamps from their passports. This would help the Arab men enter the United States without attracting suspicion that they had been to a training camp.

Sakka’s lawyer said: “Just like there is money laundering, there is also terrorist laundering and Turkey was the centre of this.”

According to Sakka, Nawaf al-Hazmi was a veteran operative who went on to pilot the plane that hit the Pentagon. Although this is at odds with the official account, which says the plane was flown by another hijacker, it is plausible and might answer one of the mysteries of 9/11.

The Pentagon plane performed a complex spiral dive into its target. Yet the pilot attributed with flying the plane “could not fly at all” according to his flight instructors in America. Hazmi, on the other hand, had mixed reviews from his instructors but they did remark on how “adept” he was on his first flight.

Paul Thompson, author and 9/11 researcher, said Sakka’s account was credible. “I think there is a lot more about the history of the hijackers that needs to be found out and Sakka’s claim may resume the debate about just how much was known about them before 9/11,” he said.

Sakka’s mountain trainees, meanwhile, had spread out to a number of countries where they carried out terrorist attacks. He claims this is why he was charged with a string of crimes committed by his associates. He was given a 15-year sentence in Jordan for the millennium bomb attacks, the death penalty for an an assassination attempt on Syria’s military intelligence chief and has been charged in Saudi Arabia for an explosives plot.

In effect, he had become a free-lance operative aiding a series of groups without necessarily agreeing with their targets. His links with Al-Qaeda, however, remained strong after the 9/11 attacks.

His lawyer says the Al-Qaeda leadership valued a number of his skills. “But most important,” he added, “was that Sakka was incredibly secretive. Al-Qaeda tested him many times, but he never once revealed a secret.”

The US invasion of Afghani-stan in late 2001 threw many of the Al-Qaeda camps into disarray. Many of the group’s fighters are thought to have fled across the border to seek safety in Iran.

According to Sakka’s account, one of those fighters was Zar-qawi. The precise movements of the Jordanian, who is thought to have been wounded fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghani-stan, have always been a matter of speculation.

Sakka’s initial role in the insurgency was to help foreign fighters enter Iraq. He took his family to live in Falluja, which was emerging as the hub of the foreign fighters’ resistance to the occupying forces.

He later told a court: “We held out for 70 days. They destroyed vast quarters of the city. It wouldn’t have been possible for them to enter before doing so. We ran out of ammunition and had to pull out.”

A month before the fall of Falluja, Sakka claims that he was part of the group that killed Kenneth Bigley, the British hostage. He describes himself as the “diplomat” who negotiated on behalf of the insurgents and says he presided over the court that resolved to execute him. He says Bigley’s body is buried in Falluja with his passport and confession video.

Today Sakka remains a controversial figure. The British Foreign Office says it has interviewed Sakka in jail about the Bigley murder. He provided a map of where Bigley was buried but the Foreign Office says they could not find the body. In Turkey, police sources claim Sakka may have become clinically insane or perhaps be an egoma-niac who has overstated his role.

The Sunday Times has spoken to a number of Al-Qaeda experts who say that many elements of his story ring true, but they are impossible to verify conclusively. Evan Kohlmann, an investigator for the 9/11 Finding Answers Foundation, said: “When [Sakka] was in Falluja there were several high-ranking Turkish guys there. It is also true that for a number of conflicts that Al-Qaeda has been involved in, Turkey is a very important through stop and a lot of fighters have travelled through there with the assistance of local people.”

Swift justice

Gordon Brown’s plans to double the detention period for terror suspects face further opposition with a report showing that America needs just 48 hours to file charges in Al-Qaeda cases.

The report by Justice, the human rights group, will say this week that Brown’s plans to extend precharge detention to 56 days are untenable.

It says: “No western democracy faces a greater threat of terrorism than the US. Despite this, the proven ability of US law enforcement to charge suspects in complex terror plots within 48 hours of arrest without resort to exceptional measures shows that UK proposals to extend precharge detention are both unjustified and unnecessary.”

The report emphasises the importance of FBI phone tap evidence and Brown is considering whether such intercept evidence should be allowed in Britain.

Eric Metcalfe, the Justice report’s author, said: “From Guantanamo Bay to rendition to torture, the US has done a lot of things badly wrong in the fight against terrorism.

“But in the rush to extend precharge detention here in the UK, we sometimes overlook what they are doing right.”

Radio support

AN Islamic radio station has been broadcasting good-luck messages to some of Britain’s most dangerous terrorists.

Wellwishers were urged by extremist websites to use Radio Ramadan to send their messages of support to inmates at Belmarsh high-security prison in southeast London, including Abu Hamza al-Masri, the cleric serving seven years for inciting murder, and the failed 21/7 London bombers.

One extremist website, Islambase.co.uk, said in a forum that the “brothers in Belmarsh” had access to radios and listened to the station every night. A posting on the forum read: “The messages have been received in Belmarsh.”

Tariq Abbasi, who was responsible for the station, confirmed that messages were aired for inmates. He had a licence issued by Ofcom to broadcast from the Greenwich Islamic Centre in Plumstead during Ramadan, which ended six weeks ago.

Alleged Trainer Of 9/11 Hijackers a CIA Informant

November 27, 2007

Alleged Trainer Of 9/11 Hijackers a CIA Informant
Sakka attempts to plug holes in 9/11 official story, claims Hanjour did not pilot Flight 77

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

digg_title = ‘Alleged Trainer Of 9/11 Hijackers a CIA Informant’; digg_bodytext = ‘The man who claims to have trained six of the 9/11 hijackers is a paid CIA informant according to Turkish intelligence specialists, who also assert that Al-Qaeda is merely the name of a secret service operation designed to foment a strategy of tension around the world.’;

The man who claims to have trained six of the 9/11 hijackers is a paid CIA informant according to Turkish intelligence specialists, who also assert that Al-Qaeda is merely the name of a secret service operation designed to foment a strategy of tension around the world.

In a London Times report, Louai al-Sakka, now incarcerated in a high-security Turkish prison 60 miles east of Istanbul, claims that he trained six of the 9/11 hijackers at a camp in the mountains near Istanbul from 1999-2000.

Sakka was imprisoned in 2005 after being caught making bombs that he planned to use to blow up Israeli vessels. Sakka asserts that he is a leading Al-Qaeda operative, having directed insurgency attacks in Iraq and also the beheading of Briton Kenneth Bigley in October 2004.

Some of Sakka’s account is corroborated by the US government’s 9/11 Commission. It found evidence that four of the hijackers – whom Sakka says he trained – had initially intended to go to Chechnya from Turkey but the border into Georgia was closed. Sakka had prepared fake visas for the group’s travel to Pakistan and arranged their flights from Istanbul’s Ataturk airport. The group of four went to the al-Farouq camp near Kandahar and the other two to Khaldan, near Kabul, an elite camp for Al-Qaeda fighters.

When Moqed and Suqami returned to Turkey, Sakka employed his skills as a forger to scrub out the Pakistani visa stamps from their passports. This would help the Arab men enter the United States without attracting suspicion that they had been to a training camp.

“But, as with many things in the world of Al-Qaeda, there might be smoke and mirrors,” reports the Times. “Some experts believe that Sakka could be overstating his importance to the group, possibly to lay a false track for western agencies investigating his terrorist colleagues.”

However, when one considers what other experts have said about Sakka, it appears that his intentions towards “western agencies” are anything but deceptive – since Turkish intelligence analysts concluded that Sakka has been a CIA asset all along.

Prominent Turkish newspaper Zaman reported that Sakka was hired as a CIA informant in 2000, after receiving a large sum of money from the agency. This would explain why he was “captured” but then released on two separate occasions by the CIA during the course of 2000.

Sakka was later captured by Turkish intelligence but again ordered to be released after which he moved to Germany to assist the alleged 9/11 hijackers.

Shortly before 9/11, Sakka was allegedly hired by Syrian intelligence – to whom he gave a warning that the attacks were coming on September 10th, 2001.

In his book At the Center of the Storm, former CIA director George Tenet writes, that “a source we were jointly running with a Middle Eastern country went to see his foreign handler and basically told him something big was about to go down.”

“This is very likely a reference to Sakra, since no one else comes close to matching the description of telling a Middle Eastern government about the 9/11 attacks one day in advance, not to mention working as an informant for the CIA at the same time. Tenet’s revelation strongly supports the notion that Sakra in fact accepted the CIA’s offers in 2000 and had been working with the CIA and other intelligence agencies at least through 9/11 ,” writes 9/11 researcher Paul Thompson, who was also interviewed for the London Times article.

Were the alleged “interrogations” of Sakka on behalf of the CIA merely a smokescreen to enable instructions to be passed on? This is certainly the view of Turkish intelligence experts, who go further and conclude that “Al-Qaeda” as a whole is merely a front group for western intelligence agencies used to foment a “strategy of tension” around the world.

Is Sakka still in the employ of western intelligence agencies? His apparent effort to plug the holes in the official 9/11 story is fascinating.

According to Sakka, Nawaf al-Hazmi was a veteran operative who went on to pilot the plane that hit the Pentagon. Although this is at odds with the official account, which says the plane was flown by another hijacker, it is plausible and might answer one of the mysteries of 9/11.

The Pentagon plane performed a complex spiral dive into its target. Yet the pilot attributed with flying the plane (Hani Hanjour) “could not fly at all” according to his flight instructors in America. Hazmi, on the other hand, had mixed reviews from his instructors but they did remark on how “adept” he was on his first flight.

Exactly how “adept” one has to be to pull off maneuvers that would be impossible for veteran crack fighter pilots is not explored in the Times report.