Archive for the ‘War’ Category

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

June 5, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going to Work in Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Carter White House and Monetary Reform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Reagan Revolution”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Bill Clinton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darkness in America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monetary Reform and My Retirement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing About the Present Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conspiracy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does the Future Hold?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2008 Presidential Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spiritual Warfare?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2008 by Richard C. Cook

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

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

May 29, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1962 Cuba.  Naval and Marine forces blockade island.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bugliosi Wants Bush Charged with Murder

May 29, 2008

Bugliosi Wants Bush Charged with Murder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Entrenched, Embedded, and Here to Stay

May 29, 2008

Entrenched, Embedded, and Here to Stay

By Frida Berrigan
Source: TomDispatch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If it sounds like a tall order, it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carnage in Gaza: To blame the victims for this killing spree defies both morality and sense

March 12, 2008

Carnage in Gaza: To blame the victims for this killing spree defies both morality and sense

 

By S Milne

 

Global Research, March 5, 2008

Guardian

 

Washington’s covert attempts to overturn an election result lie behind the crisis in Gaza, as leaked papers show

The attempt by western politicians and media to present this week’s carnage in the Gaza Strip as a legitimate act of Israeli self-defence – or at best the latest phase of a wearisome conflict between two somehow equivalent sides – has reached Alice-in-Wonderland proportions. Since Israel’s deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai, issued his chilling warning last week that Palestinians faced a “holocaust” if they continued to fire home-made rockets into Israel, the balance sheet of suffering has become ever clearer. More than 120 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli forces in the past week, of whom one in five were children and more than half were civilians, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. During the same period, three Israelis were killed, two of whom were soldiers taking part in the attacks.

So what was the response of the British foreign secretary, David Miliband, to this horrific killing spree? It was to blame the “numerous civilian casualties” on the week’s “significant rise” in Palestinian rocket attacks “and the Israeli response”, condemn the firing of rockets as “terrorist acts” and defend Israel’s right to self-defence “in accordance with international law”. But of course it has been nothing of the kind – any more than has been Israel’s 40-year occupation of the Palestinian territories, its continued expansion of settlements or its refusal to allow the return of expelled refugees.

Nor is the past week’s one-sided burden of casualties and misery anything new, but the gap is certainly getting wider. After the election of Hamas two years ago, Israel – backed by the US and the European Union – imposed a punitive economic blockade, which has hardened over the past months into a full-scale siege of the Gaza Strip, including fuel, electricity and essential supplies. Since January’s mass breakout across the Egyptian border signalled that collective punishment wouldn’t work, Israel has opted for military escalation. What that means on the ground can be seen from the fact that at the height of the intifada, from 2000 to 2005, four Palestinians were killed for every Israeli; in 2006 it was 30; last year the ratio was 40 to one. In the three months since the US-sponsored Middle East peace conference at Annapolis, 323 Palestinians have been killed compared with seven Israelis, two of whom were civilians.

But the US and Europe’s response is to blame the principal victims for a crisis it has underwritten at every stage. In interviews with Palestinian leaders over the past few days, BBC presenters have insisted that Palestinian rockets have been the “starting point” of the violence, as if the occupation itself did not exist. In the West Bank, from which no rockets are currently fired and where the US-backed administration of Mahmoud Abbas maintains a ceasefire, there have been 480 Israeli military attacks over the past three months and 26 Palestinians killed. By contrast, the rockets from Gaza which are supposed to be the justification for the latest Israeli onslaught have killed a total of 14 people over seven years.

Like any other people, the Palestinians have the right to resist occupation – or to self-defence – whether they choose to exercise it or not. In spite of Israel’s disengagement in 2005, Gaza remains occupied territory, both legally and in reality. It is the world’s largest open-air prison, with land, sea and air access controlled by Israel, which carries out military operations at will. Palestinians may differ about the tactics of resistance, but the dominant view (if not that of Abbas) has long been that without some armed pressure, their negotiating hand will inevitably be weaker. And while it might be objected that the rockets are indiscriminate, that is not an easy argument for Israel to make, given its appalling record of civilian casualties in both the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

The truth is that Hamas’s control of Gaza is the direct result of the US refusal to accept the Palestinians’ democratic choice in 2006 and its covert attempt to overthrow the elected administration by force through its Fatah placeman Muhammad Dahlan. As confirmed by secret documents leaked to the US magazine Vanity Fair – and also passed to the Guardian – George Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Elliott Abrams, the US deputy national security adviser (of Iran-Contra fame), funnelled cash, weapons and instructions to Dahlan, partly through Arab intermediaries such as Jordan and Egypt, in an effort to provoke a Palestinian civil war. As evidence of the military buildup emerged, Hamas moved to forestall the US plan with its own takeover of Gaza last June. David Wurmser, who resigned as Dick Cheney’s chief Middle East adviser the following month, argues: “What happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen.”

Yesterday, Rice attempted to defend the failed US attempt to reverse the results of the Palestinian elections by pointing to Iran’s support for Hamas. Meanwhile, Israel’s attacks on Gaza are expected to resume once she has left the region, even if no one believes they will stop the rockets. Some in the Israeli government hope that they can nevertheless weaken Hamas as a prelude to pushing Gaza into Egypt’s unwilling arms; others hope to bring Abbas and his entourage back to Gaza after they have crushed Hamas, perhaps with a transitional international force to save the Palestinian president’s face.

Neither looks a serious option, not least because Hamas cannot be crushed by force, even with the bloodbath that some envisage. The third, commonsense option, backed by 64% of Israelis, is to take up Hamas’s offer – repeated by its leader Khalid Mish’al at the weekend – and negotiate a truce. It’s a move that now attracts not only left-leaning Israeli politicians such as Yossi Beilin, but also a growing number of rightwing establishment figures, including Ariel Sharon’s former security adviser Giora Eiland, the former Mossad boss Efraim Halevy, and the ex-defence minister Shaul Mofaz.

The US, however, is resolutely opposed to negotiating with what it has long branded a terrorist organisation – or allowing anyone else to do so, including other Palestinians. As the leaked American papers confirm, Rice effectively instructed Abbas to “collapse” the joint Hamas-Fatah national unity government agreed in Mecca early last year, a decision carried out after Hamas’s pre-emptive takeover. But for the Palestinians, national unity is an absolute necessity if they are to have any chance of escaping a world of walled cantons, checkpoints, ethnically segregated roads, dispossession and humiliation.

What else can Israel do to stop the rockets, its supporters ask. The answer could not be more obvious: end the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and negotiate a just settlement for the Palestinian refugees, ethnically cleansed 60 years ago – who, with their families, make up the majority of Gaza’s 1.5 million people. All the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, accept that as the basis for a permanent settlement or indefinite end of armed conflict. In the meantime, agree a truce, exchange prisoners and lift the blockade. Israelis increasingly seem to get it – but the grim reality appears to be that a lot more blood is going to have to flow before it’s accepted in Washington.

s.milne@guardian.co.uk

Tomgram: Noam Chomsky, Terrorists Wanted the World Over

February 27, 2008

Tom Dispatch

posted 2008-02-26 15:13:30

Tomgram: Noam Chomsky, Terrorists Wanted the World Over

One of Noam Chomsky’s latest books — a conversation with David Barsamian — is entitled What We Say Goes. It catches a powerful theme of Chomsky’s: that we have long been living on a one-way planet and that the language we regularly wield to describe the realities of our world is tailored to Washington’s interests.

Juan Cole, at his Informed Comment website, had a good example of the strangeness of this targeted language recently. When Serbs stormed the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, he offered the following comment (with so many years of the term “Islamofascism” in mind): “…given that the Serbs are Eastern Orthodox Christians, will the Republican Party and Fox Cable News now start fulminating against ‘Christofascism?'”

Of course, the minute you try to turn the Washington norm (in word or act) around, as Chomsky did in a piece entitled What If Iran Had Invaded Mexico?, you’ve already entered the theater of the absurd. “Terror” is a particularly good example of this. “Terror” is something that, by (recent) definition, is committed by free-floating groups or movements against innocent civilians and is utterly reprehensible (unless the group turns out to be the CIA running car bombs into Baghdad or car and camel bombs into Afghanistan, in which case it’s not a topic that’s either much discussed, or condemned in our world). On the other hand, that weapon of terror, air power, which is at the heart of the American way of war, simply doesn’t qualify under the category of “terror” at all — no matter how terrifying it may be to innocent civilians who find themselves underneath the missiles and bombs.

It’s with this in mind that Chomsky turns to terror of every kind in the Middle East in the context of the car bombing of a major figure in Lebanon’s Hizbollah movement. By the way, The Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a new collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present, has just been published and is highly recommended. Tom

The Most Wanted List

International Terrorism
By Noam Chomsky On February 13, Imad Moughniyeh, a senior commander of Hizbollah, was assassinated in Damascus. “The world is a better place without this man in it,” State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said: “one way or the other he was brought to justice.” Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell added that Moughniyeh has been “responsible for more deaths of Americans and Israelis than any other terrorist with the exception of Osama bin Laden.”

Joy was unconstrained in Israel too, as “one of the U.S. and Israel’s most wanted men” was brought to justice, the London Financial Times reported. Under the heading, “A militant wanted the world over,” an accompanying story reported that he was “superseded on the most-wanted list by Osama bin Laden” after 9/11 and so ranked only second among “the most wanted militants in the world.”

The terminology is accurate enough, according to the rules of Anglo-American discourse, which defines “the world” as the political class in Washington and London (and whoever happens to agree with them on specific matters). It is common, for example, to read that “the world” fully supported George Bush when he ordered the bombing of Afghanistan. That may be true of “the world,” but hardly of the world, as revealed in an international Gallup Poll after the bombing was announced. Global support was slight. In Latin America, which has some experience with U.S. behavior, support ranged from 2% in Mexico to 16% in Panama, and that support was conditional upon the culprits being identified (they still weren’t eight months later, the FBI reported), and civilian targets being spared (they were attacked at once). There was an overwhelming preference in the world for diplomatic/judicial measures, rejected out of hand by “the world.”

Following the Terror Trail

In the present case, if “the world” were extended to the world, we might find some other candidates for the honor of most hated arch-criminal. It is instructive to ask why this might be true.

The Financial Times reports that most of the charges against Moughniyeh are unsubstantiated, but “one of the very few times when his involvement can be ascertained with certainty [is in] the hijacking of a TWA plane in 1985 in which a U.S. Navy diver was killed.” This was one of two terrorist atrocities that led a poll of newspaper editors to select terrorism in the Middle East as the top story of 1985; the other was the hijacking of the passenger liner Achille Lauro, in which a crippled American, Leon Klinghoffer, was brutally murdered. That reflects the judgment of “the world.” It may be that the world saw matters somewhat differently.

The Achille Lauro hijacking was a retaliation for the bombing of Tunis ordered a week earlier by Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. His air force killed 75 Tunisians and Palestinians with smart bombs that tore them to shreds, among other atrocities, as vividly reported from the scene by the prominent Israeli journalist Amnon Kapeliouk. Washington cooperated by failing to warn its ally Tunisia that the bombers were on the way, though the Sixth Fleet and U.S. intelligence could not have been unaware of the impending attack. Secretary of State George Shultz informed Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir that Washington “had considerable sympathy for the Israeli action,” which he termed “a legitimate response” to “terrorist attacks,” to general approbation. A few days later, the UN Security Council unanimously denounced the bombing as an “act of armed aggression” (with the U.S. abstaining). “Aggression” is, of course, a far more serious crime than international terrorism. But giving the United States and Israel the benefit of the doubt, let us keep to the lesser charge against their leadership.

A few days after, Peres went to Washington to consult with the leading international terrorist of the day, Ronald Reagan, who denounced “the evil scourge of terrorism,” again with general acclaim by “the world.”

The “terrorist attacks” that Shultz and Peres offered as the pretext for the bombing of Tunis were the killings of three Israelis in Larnaca, Cyprus. The killers, as Israel conceded, had nothing to do with Tunis, though they might have had Syrian connections. Tunis was a preferable target, however. It was defenseless, unlike Damascus. And there was an extra pleasure: more exiled Palestinians could be killed there.

The Larnaca killings, in turn, were regarded as retaliation by the perpetrators: They were a response to regular Israeli hijackings in international waters in which many victims were killed — and many more kidnapped and sent to prisons in Israel, commonly to be held without charge for long periods. The most notorious of these has been the secret prison/torture chamber Facility 1391. A good deal can be learned about it from the Israeli and foreign press. Such regular Israeli crimes are, of course, known to editors of the national press in the U.S., and occasionally receive some casual mention.

Klinghoffer’s murder was properly viewed with horror, and is very famous. It was the topic of an acclaimed opera and a made-for-TV movie, as well as much shocked commentary deploring the savagery of Palestinians — “two-headed beasts” (Prime Minister Menachem Begin), “drugged roaches scurrying around in a bottle” (Chief of Staff Raful Eitan), “like grasshoppers compared to us,” whose heads should be “smashed against the boulders and walls” (Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir). Or more commonly just “Araboushim,” the slang counterpart of “kike” or “nigger.”

Thus, after a particularly depraved display of settler-military terror and purposeful humiliation in the West Bank town of Halhul in December 1982, which disgusted even Israeli hawks, the well-known military/political analyst Yoram Peri wrote in dismay that one “task of the army today [is] to demolish the rights of innocent people just because they are Araboushim living in territories that God promised to us,” a task that became far more urgent, and was carried out with far more brutality, when the Araboushim began to “raise their heads” a few years later.

We can easily assess the sincerity of the sentiments expressed about the Klinghoffer murder. It is only necessary to investigate the reaction to comparable U.S.-backed Israeli crimes. Take, for example, the murder in April 2002 of two crippled Palestinians, Kemal Zughayer and Jamal Rashid, by Israeli forces rampaging through the refugee camp of Jenin in the West Bank. Zughayer’s crushed body and the remains of his wheelchair were found by British reporters, along with the remains of the white flag he was holding when he was shot dead while seeking to flee the Israeli tanks which then drove over him, ripping his face in two and severing his arms and legs. Jamal Rashid was crushed in his wheelchair when one of Israel’s huge U.S.-supplied Caterpillar bulldozers demolished his home in Jenin with his family inside. The differential reaction, or rather non-reaction, has become so routine and so easy to explain that no further commentary is necessary.

Car Bomb

Plainly, the 1985 Tunis bombing was a vastly more severe terrorist crime than the Achille Lauro hijacking, or the crime for which Moughniyeh’s “involvement can be ascertained with certainty” in the same year. But even the Tunis bombing had competitors for the prize for worst terrorist atrocity in the Mideast in the peak year of 1985.

One challenger was a car-bombing in Beirut right outside a mosque, timed to go off as worshippers were leaving Friday prayers. It killed 80 people and wounded 256. Most of the dead were girls and women, who had been leaving the mosque, though the ferocity of the blast “burned babies in their beds,” “killed a bride buying her trousseau,” and “blew away three children as they walked home from the mosque.” It also “devastated the main street of the densely populated” West Beirut suburb, reported Nora Boustany three years later in the Washington Post.

The intended target had been the Shi’ite cleric Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, who escaped. The bombing was carried out by Reagan’s CIA and his Saudi allies, with Britain’s help, and was specifically authorized by CIA Director William Casey, according to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s account in his book Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987. Little is known beyond the bare facts, thanks to rigorous adherence to the doctrine that we do not investigate our own crimes (unless they become too prominent to suppress, and the inquiry can be limited to some low-level “bad apples” who were naturally “out of control”).

“Terrorist Villagers”

A third competitor for the 1985 Mideast terrorism prize was Prime Minister Peres’ “Iron Fist” operations in southern Lebanese territories then occupied by Israel in violation of Security Council orders. The targets were what the Israeli high command called “terrorist villagers.” Peres’s crimes in this case sank to new depths of “calculated brutality and arbitrary murder” in the words of a Western diplomat familiar with the area, an assessment amply supported by direct coverage. They are, however, of no interest to “the world” and therefore remain uninvestigated, in accordance with the usual conventions. We might well ask whether these crimes fall under international terrorism or the far more severe crime of aggression, but let us again give the benefit of the doubt to Israel and its backers in Washington and keep to the lesser charge.

These are a few of the thoughts that might cross the minds of people elsewhere in the world, even if not those of “the world,” when considering “one of the very few times” Imad Moughniyeh was clearly implicated in a terrorist crime.

The U.S. also accuses him of responsibility for devastating double suicide truck-bomb attacks on U.S. Marine and French paratrooper barracks in Lebanon in 1983, killing 241 Marines and 58 paratroopers, as well as a prior attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 63, a particularly serious blow because of a meeting there of CIA officials at the time.

The Financial Times has, however, attributed the attack on the Marine barracks to Islamic Jihad, not Hizbollah. Fawaz Gerges, one of the leading scholars on the jihadi movements and on Lebanon, has written that responsibility was taken by an “unknown group called Islamic Jihad.” A voice speaking in classical Arabic called for all Americans to leave Lebanon or face death. It has been claimed that Moughniyeh was the head of Islamic Jihad at the time, but to my knowledge, evidence is sparse.

The opinion of the world has not been sampled on the subject, but it is possible that there might be some hesitancy about calling an attack on a military base in a foreign country a “terrorist attack,” particularly when U.S. and French forces were carrying out heavy naval bombardments and air strikes in Lebanon, and shortly after the U.S. provided decisive support for the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, which killed some 20,000 people and devastated the south, while leaving much of Beirut in ruins. It was finally called off by President Reagan when international protest became too intense to ignore after the Sabra-Shatila massacres.

In the United States, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon is regularly described as a reaction to Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorist attacks on northern Israel from their Lebanese bases, making our crucial contribution to these major war crimes understandable. In the real world, the Lebanese border area had been quiet for a year, apart from repeated Israeli attacks, many of them murderous, in an effort to elicit some PLO response that could be used as a pretext for the already planned invasion. Its actual purpose was not concealed at the time by Israeli commentators and leaders: to safeguard the Israeli takeover of the occupied West Bank. It is of some interest that the sole serious error in Jimmy Carter’s book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid is the repetition of this propaganda concoction about PLO attacks from Lebanon being the motive for the Israeli invasion. The book was bitterly attacked, and desperate efforts were made to find some phrase that could be misinterpreted, but this glaring error — the only one — was ignored. Reasonably, since it satisfies the criterion of adhering to useful doctrinal fabrications.

Killing without Intent

Another allegation is that Moughniyeh “masterminded” the bombing of Israel’s embassy in Buenos Aires on March 17, 1992, killing 29 people, in response, as the Financial Times put it, to Israel’s “assassination of former Hizbollah leader Abbas Al-Mussawi in an air attack in southern Lebanon.” About the assassination, there is no need for evidence: Israel proudly took credit for it. The world might have some interest in the rest of the story. Al-Mussawi was murdered with a U.S.-supplied helicopter, well north of Israel’s illegal “security zone” in southern Lebanon. He was on his way to Sidon from the village of Jibshit, where he had spoken at the memorial for another Imam murdered by Israeli forces. The helicopter attack also killed his wife and five-year old child. Israel then employed U.S.-supplied helicopters to attack a car bringing survivors of the first attack to a hospital.

After the murder of the family, Hezbollah “changed the rules of the game,” Prime Minister Rabin informed the Israeli Knesset. Previously, no rockets had been launched at Israel. Until then, the rules of the game had been that Israel could launch murderous attacks anywhere in Lebanon at will, and Hizbollah would respond only within Israeli-occupied Lebanese territory.

After the murder of its leader (and his family), Hizbollah began to respond to Israeli crimes in Lebanon by rocketing northern Israel. The latter is, of course, intolerable terror, so Rabin launched an invasion that drove some 500,000 people out of their homes and killed well over 100. The merciless Israeli attacks reached as far as northern Lebanon.

In the south, 80% of the city of Tyre fled and Nabatiye was left a “ghost town,” Jibshit was about 70% destroyed according to an Israeli army spokesperson, who explained that the intent was “to destroy the village completely because of its importance to the Shi’ite population of southern Lebanon.” The goal was “to wipe the villages from the face of the earth and sow destruction around them,” as a senior officer of the Israeli northern command described the operation.

Jibshit may have been a particular target because it was the home of Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, kidnapped and brought to Israel several years earlier. Obeid’s home “received a direct hit from a missile,” British journalist Robert Fisk reported, “although the Israelis were presumably gunning for his wife and three children.” Those who had not escaped hid in terror, wrote Mark Nicholson in the Financial Times, “because any visible movement inside or outside their houses is likely to attract the attention of Israeli artillery spotters, who… were pounding their shells repeatedly and devastatingly into selected targets.” Artillery shells were hitting some villages at a rate of more than 10 rounds a minute at times.

All of this received the firm support of President Bill Clinton, who understood the need to instruct the Araboushim sternly on the “rules of the game.” And Rabin emerged as another grand hero and man of peace, so different from the two-legged beasts, grasshoppers, and drugged roaches.

This is only a small sample of facts that the world might find of interest in connection with the alleged responsibility of Moughniyeh for the retaliatory terrorist act in Buenos Aires.

Other charges are that Moughniyeh helped prepare Hizbollah defenses against the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, evidently an intolerable terrorist crime by the standards of “the world,” which understands that the United States and its clients must face no impediments in their just terror and aggression.

The more vulgar apologists for U.S. and Israeli crimes solemnly explain that, while Arabs purposely kill people, the U.S. and Israel, being democratic societies, do not intend to do so. Their killings are just accidental ones, hence not at the level of moral depravity of their adversaries. That was, for example, the stand of Israel’s High Court when it recently authorized severe collective punishment of the people of Gaza by depriving them of electricity (hence water, sewage disposal, and other such basics of civilized life).

The same line of defense is common with regard to some of Washington’s past peccadilloes, like the destruction in 1998 of the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. The attack apparently led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, but without intent to kill them, hence not a crime on the order of intentional killing — so we are instructed by moralists who consistently suppress the response that had already been given to these vulgar efforts at self-justification.

To repeat once again, we can distinguish three categories of crimes: murder with intent, accidental killing, and murder with foreknowledge but without specific intent. Israeli and U.S. atrocities typically fall into the third category. Thus, when Israel destroys Gaza’s power supply or sets up barriers to travel in the West Bank, it does not specifically intend to murder the particular people who will die from polluted water or in ambulances that cannot reach hospitals. And when Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of the al-Shifa plant, it was obvious that it would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe. Human Rights Watch immediately informed him of this, providing details; nevertheless, he and his advisers did not intend to kill specific people among those who would inevitably die when half the pharmaceutical supplies were destroyed in a poor African country that could not replenish them.

Rather, they and their apologists regarded Africans much as we do the ants we crush while walking down a street. We are aware that it is likely to happen (if we bother to think about it), but we do not intend to kill them because they are not worthy of such consideration. Needless to say, comparable attacks by Araboushim in areas inhabited by human beings would be regarded rather differently.

If, for a moment, we can adopt the perspective of the world, we might ask which criminals are “wanted the world over.”

Noam Chomsky is the author of numerous best-selling political works. His latest books are Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy and What We Say Goes, a conversation book with David Barsamian, both in the American Empire Project series at Metropolitan Books. The Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present, has just been published by the New Press.

Copyright 2008 Noam Chomsky

The Lost Kristol Tapes

February 15, 2008

The Lost Kristol Tapes
What the New York Times bought: A look back at William Kristol’s two-hour appearance on C-Span just nine days after the President launched his invasion of Iraq.” /> Jonathan Schwarz” />
February 14″ /> , 2008″ />
Imagine that there were a Beatles record only a few people knew existed. And imagine you got the chance to listen to it, and as you did, your excitement grew, note by note. You realized it wasn’t merely as good as Rubber Soul, or Revolver, or Sgt. Pepper’s. It was much, much better. And now, imagine how badly you’d want to tell other Beatles fans all about it.

That’s how I feel for my fellow William Kristol fans. You loved it when Bill said invading Iraq was going to have “terrifically good effects throughout the Middle East”? You have the original recording of him explaining the war would make us “respected around the world” and his classic statement that there’s “almost no evidence” of Iraq experiencing Sunni-Shia conflict? Well, I’ve got something that will blow your mind!

I’m talking about Kristol’s two-hour appearance on C-Span’s Washington Journal on March 28, 2003, just nine days after the President launched his invasion of Iraq. No one remembers it today. You can’t even fish it out of LexisNexis. It’s not there. Yet it’s a masterpiece, a double album of smarm, horrifying ignorance, and bald-faced deceit. While you’ve heard him play those instruments before, he never again reached such heights. It’s a performance for the history books — particularly that chapter about how the American Empire collapsed.

At the time Kristol was merely the son of prominent neoconservative Irving Kristol, former chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle (aka “Quayle’s brain”), the editor of Rupert Murdoch’s Weekly Standard, and a frequent Fox News commentator. He hadn’t yet added New York Times columnist to his resumé. Opposite Kristol on the segment was Daniel Ellsberg, famed for leaking the Pentagon Papers in the Vietnam era. Their discussion jumped back and forth across 40 years of U.S.-Iraqi relations, and is easiest to understand if rearranged chronologically.

So, sit back, relax, and let me play a little of it for you.

To start with, Ellsberg made the reasonable point that Iraqis might not view the invading Americans as “liberators,” since the U.S. had been instrumental in Saddam Hussein’s rise to power: Here’s how he put it:

“ELLSBERG: People in Iraq… perceive Hussein as a dictator… But as a dictator the Americans chose for them. “KRISTOL: That’s just not true. We’ve had mistakes in our Iraq policy. It’s just ludicrous—we didn’t choose Hussein. We didn’t put him in power.

“ELLSBERG: In 1963, when there was a brief uprising of the Ba’ath, we supplied specifically Saddam with lists, as we did in Indonesia, lists of people to be eliminated. And since he’s a murderous thug, but at that time our murderous thug, he eliminated them…

“KRISTOL: [surprised] Is that right?…

“ELLSBERG: The same thing went on in ’68. He was our thug, just as [Panamanian dictator Manuel] Noriega, and lots of other people who were on the leash until they got off the leash and then we eliminated them. Like [Vietnamese president] Ngo Dinh Diem.”

Ellsberg here is referring to U.S. support for a 1963 coup involving the Ba’athist party, for which Saddam was already a prominent enforcer—and then another coup in 1968 when the Ba’athists consolidated control, after which Saddam became the power behind the nominal president. According to one of the 1963 plotters, “We came to power on a CIA train.” (Beyond providing lists of communists and leftists to be murdered, the U.S. also gave the new regime napalm to help them put down a Kurdish uprising we’d previously encouraged.) James Crichtfield, then head of the CIA in the Middle East, said, “We really had the t’s crossed on what was happening” This turned out not to be quite right, since factional infighting among top Iraqis required the second plot five years later for which, explained key participant Abd al-Razzaq al-Nayyif, “you must [also] look to Washington.”

Yet it appears clear on video that Kristol is genuinely startled by what Ellsberg was saying.

Consider the significance of this. Any ordinary citizen could easily have learned about the American role in those two coups—former National Security Council staffer Roger Morris had written about it on the New York Times op-ed page just two weeks before the Kristol-Ellsberg broadcast. And Kristol was far more than an ordinary citizen. He’d been near the apex of government as Quayle’s chief of staff during the first Gulf War in 1991. He’d been advocating the overthrow of the Saddam regime for years. He’d co-written an entire book, The War Over Iraq: Saddam’s Tyranny and America’s Mission, calling for an invasion of that country.

Nevertheless, Kristol was ignorant of basic, critical information about U.S.-Iraq history. Iraqis themselves were not. In a September 2003 article, a returning refugee explained the growing resistance to the occupation: “One of the popular sayings I repeatedly heard in Baghdad, describing the relations between the U.S. and Saddam’s regime, is ‘Rah el sani’, ija el ussta‘—’Gone is the apprentice, in comes the master.'”

What this suggests about the people running America is far worse than if they were simply malevolent super-geniuses: They don’t know the backstory and couldn’t care less. It’s as though we’re riding in the back seat of a car driven by people who demanded the wheel but aren’t sure what the gas pedal does or what a stop sign actually looks like.

Moreover, when Ellsberg tells Kristol this information, he demonstrates no desire to learn more; nor, as best as can be discovered, has he ever mentioned it again. Really? Those colored lights mean something about whether I’m supposed to stop or go? Huh. Anyway, let’s talk more about how all of you complaining in the back seat hate freedom.

Later, when the discussion gets closer to the present. Kristol’s demeanor changes. He appears to be better informed and therefore shifts to straightforward lies:

“ELLSBERG: Why did we support Saddam as recently as when you were in the administration? And the answer is— “KRISTOL: We didn’t support Saddam when I was in the administration.

“ELLSBERG: When were you in the administration?

“KRISTOL: 89 to 93.”

This is preposterously false. First of all, Kristol worked in the Reagan administration as Education Secretary William Bennett’s chief of staff—when the U.S. famously supported Saddam’s war against Iran with loans, munitions, intelligence, and diplomatic protection for his use of chemical weapons. After George H.W. Bush was elected in 1988, Kristol moved to the same position in Vice President Quayle’s office. During the transition, Bush’s advisors examined the country’s Iraq policy and wrote a memo explaining to the incoming President the choice he faced. In a nutshell, this was “to decide whether to treat Iraq as a distasteful dictatorship to be shunned when possible, or to recognize Iraq’s present and potential power in the region and accord it relatively high priority. We strongly urge the latter view.”

And Bush chose. Internal State Department guidelines from the period stated, “In no way should we associate ourselves with the 60 year-old Kurdish rebellion in Iraq or oppose Iraq’s legitimate attempts to suppress it.” (Saddam’s gassing of the Kurdish town of Halabja has occurred less than a year before.) Analysts warning of Iraq’s burgeoning nuclear program were squelched. The Commerce Department loosened restrictions on dual-use WMD material, while Bush the elder approved new government lines of credit for Saddam over congressional objections.

And Saddam was receiving private money as well: most notably from the Atlanta branch of Italian bank BNL. BNL staff would later report that companies wanting to sell to Iraq were referred to them by Kristol’s then-boss, Vice President Quayle. One Quayle family friend would end up constructing a refinery for Saddam to recycle Iraq’s spent artillery shells. The Bush Justice Department prevented investigators from examining transactions like this, while Commerce Department employees were ordered to falsify export licenses.

As Kristol and Ellsberg discuss the buildup to the 1991 Gulf War, Kristol, of course, continues to fiddle with reality:

“KRISTOL: So you were against the liberation of Kuwait. “ELLSBERG: No, on the contrary. At that time, a number of four star military people, former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were foursquare for containing Saddam, preventing him by military means from getting into Saudi Arabia… When it came to expelling him from Kuwait, they wanted to give the blockade and the embargo [more time], on the belief of people like Admiral Crowe that that would be preferable to the deaths that would be involved in trying to expel him militarily. We didn’t test that theory.

“KRISTOL: The argument was not that the sanctions could get him out of Kuwait. The argument was that we could keep him out of Saudi Arabia. Who seriously thought he could be expelled from Kuwait by sanctions?

“ELLSBERG: Practically everyone who testified before Senator Nunn, who is no left-wing radical. And Senator Nunn himself. You’ve forgotten the history of that.

“KRISTOL: I remember the history vividly.”

Ellsberg is correct, of course: On November 28, 1990, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral William Crowe testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee and its chairman Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.). Crowe stated: “[W]e should give sanctions a fair chance… I personally believe they will bring [Saddam] to his knees”—by which Crowe meant Iraq would be “pushed out of Kuwait.” The same message was delivered by General David Jones, another former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman. The next day, the lede in a page one New York Times story was that Crowe and Jones had “urged the Bush Administration today to postpone military action against Iraq and to give economic sanctions a year or more to work.”

It’s not like Kristol could have missed all this, since the Bush administration immediately disputed such commentary—and one of its point men for the push back was none other than Dan Quayle. An early December 1990 article about a Quayle speech reported: “[Quayle] specifically cited the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committee” where “voices have argued that the Bush Administration should allow time for economic sanctions against Iraq to work, getting President Saddam Hussein to leave Kuwait voluntarily rather than using force to dislodge him.” (Unfortunately, there’s no available reporting on whether Quayle’s chief of staff wrote this speech for him.)

Then there’s Kristol’s curious explanation of his views on how the Gulf War ended—that moment when George H.W. Bush called upon the Iraqi people to overthrow Saddam and then, despite having smashed Saddam’s army and controlling Iraq’s air space, let the dictator’s helicopter gunships take to the air and crush a Shiite uprising. There were even reports the administration forbade the Saudis from aiding the uprising and that U.S. troops blew up caches of Iraqi weapons rather than allow the rebels to use them.

Kristol, however, uses his courtier’s skills to remake reality more pleasingly:

“KRISTOL: I was unhappy in 1991 when we stopped the war and left this brutal tyrant in power. I think we betrayed the people who rose up against Saddam, a genuine popular uprising. That was a big mistake on the part of the Bush administration. A political mistake and a moral mistake.”

So that’s clear: Kristol feels the decision was immoral. Or… was it?

“KRISTOL: I don’t think these were simply immoral decisions by the president. These were judgment calls. There were reasons. There were arguments. There weren’t simply— “ELLSBERG: But they were immoral—

“KRISTOL: Well, no, that’s not so easy to call a political decision an immoral decision.

That’s fancy footwork for you! On the one hand, Kristol wants us to know that the decision was indeed “a moral mistake.” The implication is that he should be respected in the post-invasion moment of 2003 as the sort of sensitive tough guy who would indeed invade Iraq to make up for past decisions that lacked morality. On the other hand, we’re talking about a former Republican president and the present President’s father. A straightforward declaration of “immorality,” if pursued far enough, could easily hurt future employment prospects. Kristol has absolutely perfect pitch, managing to strike a blow for moral beauty in politics while maintaining career viability.

Ellsberg then asks questions aimed at just this issue:

“ELLSBERG: Did you consider doing more than disagree? Perhaps putting out the word of your dissent? Perhaps resigning with documents and revealing those to the press and the Congress? “KRISTOL [scoffing]: I had no documents to put out. There were no secrets about the President’s policy… We didn’t want to occupy Baghdad. The rebellion would have failed anyway. We would have gotten in deeper.”

Hmmm. No secrets about Bush the elder’s policy. Yet there was something that most certainly was secret about the rebellions at end of the Gulf War: Saddam was using chemical weapons to put down the Shiite uprising in the south. Rumored since 1991, this has been confirmed by the most impeccable source imaginable—the CIA’s final 2004 report on Iraq’s WMD. According to the report, the Iraqi military used Sarin nerve agent, dropped from the helicopters the U.S. had given them permission to fly.

The CIA goes onto to suggest the U.S. government knew about this at the time, describing “reports of attacks in 1991 from refugees and Iraqi military deserters.” And Gulf War veterans have said they passed such reports up the chain of command. Did Kristol know it then? Probably not. But even today there’s no sign he knows: he and the Weekly Standard appear never to have mentioned it. As with the coups in 1963 and 1968, Kristol’s ignorance is of a peculiarly convenient variety.

In any case, here’s what Kristol did know: the Bush administration made the choices it did at war’s end not because, as Kristol says, they felt “the rebellion would have failed.” Their fear was exactly the opposite: that the rebellion would succeed. Yes, the Bush administration preferred Saddam gone, but it wanted him replaced by some other, more amenable group or leader from the Sunni military elite. It most certainly did not want a popular uprising that might leave a largely Shiite government in power in Baghdad, potentially close to Iran. Even worse was the possibility Iraq could fracture, with power shifting to the oil-rich Shiite south. As an administration official told Peter Galbraith, then a Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer, “[O]ur policy is to get rid of Saddam Hussein, not the regime.” Later, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman explained that Washington was looking for “the best of all worlds: an iron-fisted Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein.”

Kristol’s predictions that March day in 2003 are every bit as on target as his descriptions of the past. When Ellsberg raises the possibility of the new Iraq war coming to resemble Vietnam in some fashion, Kristol insists that this is utterly preposterous: “It’s not going to happen. This is going to be a two-month war.”

Here’s the exchange when they turn to what will happen to Iraq’s Kurds:

“ELLSBERG: The Kurds have every reason to believe they will be betrayed again by the United States, as so often in the past. The spectacle of our inviting Turks into this war… could not have been reassuring to the Kurds… “KRISTOL: I’m against betraying the Kurds. Surely your point isn’t that because we betrayed them in the past we should betray them this time?

“ELLSBERG: Not that we should, just that we will.

“KRISTOL: We will not. We will not.”

This past December, we did. The Bush administration officially looked the other way while Turkey carried out a 50-plane bombing raid on Iraqi Kurdistan against the PKK, a Kurdish rebel group. Ken Silverstein of Harper’s reprinted an email from a former U.S. official there that said, in part:

“The blowback here in Kurdistan is building against the U.S. government because of its help with the Turkish air strikes. The theme is shock and betrayal… The people killed and wounded were villagers, not PKK fighters or support people… The initial explanation from Washington that the United States did not authorize the Turkish strike is bullshit, and every Kurd here knows it.”

No mention of the bombing has appeared in the Weekly Standard. It’s fair to assume, however, that Kristol will eventually call America’s actions there “a moral mistake,” while emphasizing that “these were judgment calls. There were reasons. There were arguments.”

Back in 2003, Kristol was also quite certain, almost touchingly so, that the Bush administration would be well served by relying on Iraqi exiles:

“KRISTOL: We have tens of thousands of Shia exiles [who] have come back to help contribute to the liberation of Iraq. “ELLSBERG: I’m afraid the people who propose this war have failed one lesson of intelligence history, which is not to rely too much on the knowledge of people who have left the country… The people who’ve come to this country may very well underestimate the desire of those people not to be governed by foreigners.”

This lesson of history goes back a long way. Book II, Chapter XXXI of Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy is titled “How Dangerous It Is to Believe Exiles”:

“It ought to be considered, therefore, how vain are the faith and promises of those who find themselves deprived of their country… such is the extreme desire in them to return home, that they naturally believe many things that are false and add many others by art, so that between those they believe and those they say they believe, they fill you with hope, so that relying on them you will incur expenses in vain, or you undertake an enterprise in which you ruin yourself… A Prince, therefore, ought to go slowly in undertaking an enterprise upon the representations of an exile, for most of the times he will be left either with shame or very grave injury.”

The Weekly Standard‘s archives show Kristol has published quite a few articles on how political correctness in elite U.S. universities is strangling the teaching of the Western canon. And you can understand where he’s coming from: While Kristol himself received a PhD in government from Harvard, it obviously was during a period when radical multiculturalists had completely expunged Machiavelli from the curriculum. When will the PC brigade ever learn? Teaching Toni Morrison starts wars.

Finally, there’s the most telling moment of the entire two hours, when a caller asks Kristol something he does not at all expect:

“CALLER: I wonder how we reconcile these views with how we treat the American Indians? “KRISTOL: [raising eyebrows, chuckling] Well, I think the American Indians are now full citizens of the United States of America. We have injustices in our past in treating the American Indians. I’m for equal rights for American Indians and for liberating the people of Iraq from this horrible tyranny.”

Kristol obviously finds the caller’s perspective ridiculous. But the man had, in fact, asked the most profound question possible.

After all, there is a deep cultural connection running from our conquest of the continent to the invasion of Iraq. While Americans have mostly forgotten this, the early settlers did not perceive themselves as simply pushing Indians out of the way. Rather, they came here with the very best of intentions. The 1629 seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony is a picture of an American Indian, who is saying, “Come over and help us.” Three hundred seventy-three years later in 2002, Ahmed Chalabi was being paid by the U.S. government to tell Americans to come over and “help the Iraqi people.” In his book The Winning of the West, Teddy Roosevelt wrote that no nation “has ever treated the original savage owners of the soil with such generosity as has the United States.” In 2004, Fred Barnes wrote (in the Weekly Standard) that the invasion of Iraq might be “the greatest act of benevolence one country has ever done for another.”

Kristol finishes the C-Span show with a crescendo:

“The moral credentials of this war are strong. We’ll see if we follow through. I agree with Mr. Ellsberg on this, if we’re not serious about helping the Iraqi people rebuild their country and about helping promote decent democratic government in Iraq… it will be a much less morally satisfying and fully defensible war… I’m happy to be held to a moral standard. I ask that it be a serious moral standard.”

So, there you have it: a complex, rich experience to be savored by anyone who enjoys watching a master at the very peak of his craft.

Yet trying to encapsulate Kristol’s now almost five year-old chilling performance by turning it into a bitter joke only takes us so far. After all, the joke is on us.

Kristol indeed has been held to a moral standard, but it’s the moral standard of Rupert Murdoch and, more recently, the New York Times. What we learn from this dusty vinyl LP is that some of the most powerful men and institutions in our country are genuinely depraved. They provide Kristol with his prominence not in spite of performances like this one, but precisely because of them. Kristol is giving them just what they want. The fact that he’s a propagandist straight out of Pravda‘s archives makes the same impression on them as the fact that John Lennon was a great songwriter might make on you or me.

Of course he is. That’s why we bought the album.

Jonathan Schwarz is a frequent contributor to Mother Jones and co-author with Michael Gerber of Our Kampf, a collection of their humor from the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and Saturday Night Live. His website is named after a saying of George Orwell’s: “Every joke is a tiny revolution.”

Hezbollah prepared for war on Israel

February 15, 2008
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2008
7:40 MECCA TIME, 4:40 GMT
Hezbollah declares ‘war’ on Israel

Thousands of people turned out in Beirut’s southern suburbs to mourn Moghaniyah’s death [Reuters]
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Accusing Israel of killing Imad Moghaniyah in a car bomb blast on Tuesday in Damascus, the Syrian capital, Hassan Nasrallah said that it had “crossed the borders”.
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“With this murder, its timing, location and method – Zionists [Israel] if you want this kind of open war, let the whole world listen: let this war be open,” he said.
Nasrallah speech


Hezbollah ready to expand fight against Israel

He said Hezbollah fighters had started preparing for the next war immediately after the end of the 2006 war with Israel.

Speaking in a videotaped message to supporters at the funeral service for Moghaniyah in southern Beirut on Thursday, Nasrallah said: “Like all human beings we have a sacred right to defend ourselves.
“We will do all that it takes to defend our country and people.”

Israel on alert

The Israeli prime minister’s office issued a warning late on Thursday urging Israeli citizens to act with extra caution while abroad, noting the threat of kidnapping.

 

It advised staying out of Arab and Muslim countries, avoiding concentrations of other Israelis and turning down “unexpected invitations to meetings in remote places”.

 

Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel’s military chief, put forces on heightened alert, and the military sent more troops to the already fortified border with Lebanon, defence officials said.

 

Israeli embassies worldwide also were put on alert, and Israeli security forces advised Jewish institutions across the globe to be vigilant, officials said.

In Washington, Sean McCormack, the US state department spokesman, called Nasrallah’s threats “quite concerning”.

 

“Quite clearly, Hezbollah has a long record of carrying out violent acts and acts of terrorism around the globe,” he said.

Different visions
The speech by Nasrallah, who is in hiding after the July 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, came shortly after an event elsewhere in the Lebanese capital to mark the third anniversary of the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, a former prime minister.

Thousands of other Lebanese called on Syria
to stay out of their country’s politics [AFP]

Security was tight as thousands of people gathered for the two separate rallies, which highlighted the deep divisions in the country.

Leaders in the pro-government March 14 bloc had supporters in the al-Hariri commemoration in Martyrs Square to show their rejection of alleged Syrian efforts to regain influence in Lebanon.
Hezbollah, which is supported by Syria and Iran, has led an opposition political bloc against March 14 for the past three years.
Rula Amin, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Beirut, said the rallies advanced different visions for Lebanon.
She said the al-Hariri rally speakers took pride in the fact that it was the US, the EU and the West that was backing them.
But in the southern suburbs, at the funeral for Moghaniyah, there was defiance against Israel, the US and the West in general which considered Moghaniyah a terrorist, she said.
The funeral was a message from Hezbollah not just to Israel but the March 14 leaders that the Shia group also commanded support on the streets, Amin added.
Nasrallah vow

Moghaniyah, who was accused by the US of planning attacks on Western targets during the Lebanese civil war, was killed by a car bomb in Damascus on Tuesday evening.

Nasrallah said that the death of Moghaniyah would only strengthen the resistance against Israel.
“Moghaniyah’s blood will lead to the elimination of Israel. These words are not an emotional reaction,” he said.

Amin said Nasrallah’s words had left many Lebanese wondering if there will be another war with Israel.

 
 
 

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

A tidal wave of misery is engulfing Iraq By Michael Schwartz

February 12, 2008

A tidal wave of misery is engulfing Iraq By Michael Schwartz

Dandelion Salad

By Michael Schwartz
ICH
11/02/08 “
Mother Jones

A tidal wave of misery is engulfing Iraq—and it isn’t the usual violence that Americans are accustomed to hearing about and tuning out. To be sure, it’s rooted in that violence, but this tsunami of misery is social and economic in nature. It dislodges people from their jobs, sweeps them from their homes, tears them from their material possessions, and carries them off from families and communities. It leaves them stranded in hostile towns or foreign countries, with no anchor to resist the moment when the next wave of displacement sweeps over them.

The victims of this human tsunami are called refugees if they wash ashore outside the country or IDPs (”internally displaced persons”) if their landing place is within Iraq’s borders. Either way, they are normally left with no permanent housing, no reliable livelihood, no community support, and no government aid. All the normal social props that support human lives are removed, replaced with…nothing.

Overlapping Waves of the Dispossessed

In its first four years, the Iraq war created three overlapping waves of refugees and IDPs. It all began with the Coalition Provisional Authority, which the Bush administration set up inside Baghdad’s Green Zone and, in May 2003, placed under the control of L. Paul Bremer III. The CPA immediately began dismantling Iraq’s state apparatus. Thousands of Baathist Party bureaucrats were purged from the government; tens of thousands of workers were laid off from shuttered, state-owned industries; hundreds of thousands of Iraqi military personnel were dismissed from Saddam’s dismantled military. Their numbers soon multiplied as the ripple effect of their lost buying power rolled through the economy. Many of the displaced found other (less remunerative) jobs; some hunkered down to wait out bad times; still others left their homes and sought work elsewhere, with the most marketable going to nearby countries where their skills were still in demand. They were the leading edge of the first wave of Iraqi refugees. As the post-war chaos continued, kidnapping became the country’s growth industry, targeting any prosperous family with the means to pay ransom. This only accelerated the rate of departure, particularly among those who had already had their careers disrupted. A flood of professional, technical, and managerial workers fled their homes and Iraq in search of personal and job security.

The spirit of this initial exodus was eloquently expressed by an Iraqi blogger with the online handle of AnaRki13:

“Not so much a migration as a forced exodus. Scientists, engineers, doctors, architects, writers, poets, you name it—everybody is getting out of town. “Why? Simple: 1. There is no real job market in Iraq. 2. Even if you have a good job, chances are good you’ll get kidnapped or killed. It’s just not worth it staying here. Sunni, Shiite, or Christian—everybody, we’re all leaving, or have already left.

“One of my friends keeps berating me about how I should love this country, the land of my ancestors, where I was born and raised; how I should be grateful and return to the place that gave me everything. I always tell him the same thing: ‘Iraq, as you and me once knew it, is lost. What’s left of it, I don’t want…’

“The most famous doctors and university professors have already left the country because many of them, including ones I knew personally, were assassinated or killed, and the rest got the message—and got themselves jobs in the west, where they were received warmly and given high positions. Other millions of Iraqis, just ordinary Iraqis, left and are leaving—without plans and with much hope.”

In 2004, the Americans triggered a second wave of refugees when they began to attack and invade insurgent strongholds, as they did the Sunni city of Falluja in November 2004, using the full kinetic force of their military. Whether the Americans called for evacuation or not, large numbers of local residents were forced to flee battleground neighborhoods or cities. The process was summarized in a thorough review of the history of the war compiled by the Global Policy Forum and 35 other international non-governmental organizations:

“Among those who flee, the most fortunate are able to seek refuge with out-of-town relatives, but many flee into the countryside where they face extremely difficult conditions, including shortages of food and water. Eventually the Red Crescent, the UN or relief organizations set up camps. In Falluja, a city of about 300,000, over 216,000 displaced persons had to seek shelter in overcrowded camps during the winter months, inadequately supplied with food, water, and medical care. An estimated 100,000 fled al-Qaim, a city of 150,000, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS). In Ramadi, about 70 percent of the city’s 400,000 people left in advance of the U.S. onslaught. “These moments mark the beginning of Iraq’s massive displacement crisis.”

While most of these refugees returned after the fighting, a significant minority did not, either because their homes (or livelihoods) had been destroyed, or because they were afraid of continuing violence. Like the economically displaced of the previous wave, these refugees sought out new areas that were less dangerous or more prosperous, including neighboring countries. And, as with that first wave, it was the professionals as well as the technical and managerial workers who were most likely to have the resources to leave Iraq.

In early 2005 the third wave began, developing by the next year into the veritable tsunami of ethnic cleansing and civil war that pushed vast numbers of Iraqis from their homes. The precipitating incidents, according to Ali Allawi—the Iraqi finance minister when this third wave began—were initially triggered by the second-wave-refugees pushed out of the Sunni city of Falluja in the winter of 2004:

“Refugees leaving Falluja had converged on the western Sunni suburbs of Baghdad, Amriya and Ghazaliya, which had come under the control of the insurgency. Insurgents, often backed by relatives of the Falluja refugees, turned on the Shi’a residents of these neighbourhoods. Hundreds of Shi’a families were driven from their homes, which were then seized by the refugees. Sunni Arab resentment against the Shi’a’s ‘collaboration’ with the occupation’s forces had been building up, exacerbated by the apparent indifference of the Shi’a to the assault on Falluja. “In turn, the Shi’a were becoming incensed by the daily attacks on policemen and soldiers, who were mostly poor Shi’a men. The targeting of Sunnis in majority Shi’a neighbourhoods began in early 2005. In the Shaab district of Baghdad, for instance, the assassination of a popular Sadrist cleric, Sheikh Haitham al-Ansari, led to the formation of one of the first Shi’a death squads… The cycle of killings, assassinations, bombings and expulsions fed into each other, quickly turning to a full-scale ethnic cleansing of city neighbourhoods and towns.”

The process only accelerated in early 2006, after the bombing of the Golden Dome in Samarra, a revered Shiite shrine, and crested in 2007 when the American military “surge” onto the streets of Baghdad loosened the hold of Sunni insurgents on many mixed as well as Sunni neighborhoods in the capital. During the year of the surge all but 25 or so of the approximately 200 mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad became ethnically homogenous. A similar process took place in the city’s southern suburbs.

As minority groups in mixed neighborhoods and cities were driven out, they too joined the army of displaced persons, often settling into vacated homes in newly purified neighborhoods dominated by their own sect. But many, like those in the previous waves of refugees, found they had to move to new locales far away from the violence, including a large number who, once again, simply left Iraq. As with previous waves, the more prosperous were the most likely to depart, taking with them professional, technical, and managerial skills.

Among those who departed in this third wave was Riverbend, the pseudonymous “Girl Blogger from Baghdad,” who had achieved international fame for her beautifully crafted reports on life in Iraq under the U.S. occupation. Her description of her journey into exile chronicled the emotional tragedy experienced by millions of Iraqis:

“The last few hours in the house were a blur. It was time to go and I went from room to room saying goodbye to everything. I said goodbye to my desk—the one I’d used all through high school and college. I said goodbye to the curtains and the bed and the couch. I said goodbye to the armchair E. and I broke when we were younger. I said goodbye to the big table over which we’d gathered for meals and to do homework. I said goodbye to the ghosts of the framed pictures that once hung on the walls, because the pictures have long since been taken down and stored away—but I knew just what hung where. I said goodbye to the silly board games we inevitably fought over—the Arabic Monopoly with the missing cards and money that no one had the heart to throw away… “The trip was long and uneventful, other than two checkpoints being run by masked men. They asked to see identification, took a cursory glance at the passports and asked where we were going. The same was done for the car behind us. Those checkpoints are terrifying but I’ve learned that the best technique is to avoid eye contact, answer questions politely and pray under your breath. My mother and I had been careful not to wear any apparent jewelry, just in case, and we were both in long skirts and head scarves…

“How is it that a border no one can see or touch stands between car bombs, militias, death squads and… peace, safety? It’s difficult to believe—even now. I sit here and write this and wonder why I can’t hear the explosions…”

The Human Toll

The number of Iraqis who flooded neighboring lands, not to speak of even approximate estimates of the number of internal refugees, remains notoriously difficult to determine, but the most circumspect of observers have reported constantly accelerating rates of displacement since the Bush administration’s March 2003 invasion. These numbers quickly outstripped the flood of expatriates who had fled the country during Saddam Hussein’s brutal era.

By early 2006, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was already estimating that 1.7 million Iraqis had left the country and that perhaps an equal number of internal refugees had been created in the same three-year period. The rate rose dramatically yet again as sectarian violence and ethnic expulsions took hold; the International Organization for Migration estimated the displacement rate during 2006 and 2007 at about 60,000 per month. In mid 2007, Iraq was declared by Refugees International to be the “fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world,” while the United Nations called the crisis “the worst human displacement in Iraq’s modern history.”

Syria, the only country that initially placed no restrictions on Iraqi immigration, had (according to UN statistics) taken in about 1.25 million displaced Iraqis by early 2007. In addition, the UN estimated that more than 500,000 Iraqi refugees were in Jordan, as many as 70,000 in Egypt, approaching 60,000 in Iran, about 30,000 in Lebanon, approximately 200,000 spread across the Gulf States, and another 100,000 in Europe, with a final 50,000 spread around the globe. The United States, which had accepted about 20,000 Iraqi refugees during Saddam Hussein’s years, admitted 463 additional ones between the start of the war and mid-2007.

President Bush’s “surge” strategy, begun in January 2007, amplified the flood, especially of the internally displaced, still further. According to James Glanz and Stephen Farrell of the New York Times, “American-led operations have brought new fighting, driving fearful Iraqis from their homes at much higher rates than before the tens of thousands of additional troops arrived.” The combined effect of the American offensive and accelerated ethnic expulsions generated an estimated displacement rate of 100,000 per month in Baghdad alone during the first half of 2007, a figure that surprised even Said Hakki, the director of the Iraqi Red Crescent, who had been monitoring the refugee crisis since the beginning of the war.

During 2007, according to UN estimates, Syria admitted an additional 150,000 refugees. With Iraqis by then constituting almost 10% of the country’s population, the Syrian government, feeling the strain on resources, began putting limits on the unending flood and attempted to launch a mass repatriation policy. Such repatriation efforts have, so far, been largely fruitless. Even when violence in Baghdad began to decline in late 2007, refugees attempting to return found that their abandoned homes had often either been badly damaged in American offensives or, more likely, appropriated by strangers (often of a different sect), or were in “cleansed” neighborhoods that were now inhospitable to them.

In the same years, the weight of displaced persons inside Iraq grew ever more quickly. Estimated by the UN at 2.25 million in September 2007, this tidal flow of internally displaced, often homeless, families began to weigh on the resources of the provinces receiving them. Najaf, the first large city south of Baghdad, where the most sacred Shiite shrines in Iraq are located, found that its population of 700,000 had increased by an estimated 400,000 displaced Shia. In three other southern Shia provinces, IDPs came by mid-2007 to constitute over half the population.

The burden was crushing. By 2007, Karbala, one of the most burdened provinces, was attempting to enforce a draconian measure passed the previous year: New residents would be expelled unless officially sponsored by two members of the provincial council. Other governates also tried in various ways, and largely without success, to staunch the flow of refugees.

Whether inside or outside the country, even prosperous families before the war faced grim conditions. In Syria, where a careful survey of conditions was undertaken in October 2007, only 24% of all Iraqi families were supported by salaries or wages. Most families were left to live as best they could on dwindling savings or remittances from relatives, and a third of those with funds on hand expected to run out within three months. Under this kind of pressure, increasing numbers were reduced to sex work or other exploitative (or black market) sources of income.

Food was a major issue for many families; according to the United Nations, nearly half needed “urgent food assistance.” A substantial proportion of adults reported skipping at least one meal a day in order to feed their children. Many others endured foodless days “in order to keep up with rent and utilities.” One refugee mother told McClatchy reporter Hannah Allam, “We buy just enough meat to flavor the food — we buy it with pennies… I can’t even buy a kilo of sweets for Eid [a major annual celebration].”

According to a rigorous McClatchy Newspaper survey, most Iraqi refugees in Syria were housed in crowded conditions with more than one person per room (sometimes many more). Twenty-five percent of families lived in one-room apartments; about one in six refugees had been diagnosed with a (usually untreated) chronic disease; and one-fifth of the children had had diarrhea in the two weeks before being questioned. While Syrian officials had aided refugee parents in getting over two-thirds of school-aged children enrolled in schools, 46% had dropped out—due mainly to lack of appropriate immigration documents, insufficient funds to pay for school expenses, or a variety of emotional issues—and the drop-out rate was escalating. And keep in mind, the Iraqis who made it to Syria were generally the lucky ones, far more likely to have financial resources or employable skills.

Like the expatriate refugees, internally displaced Iraqis faced severe and constantly declining conditions. The almost powerless Iraqi central government, largely trapped inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, requires that people who move from one place to another register in person in Baghdad; if they fail to do so, they lose eligibility for the national program that subsidizes the purchase of small amounts of a few staple foods. Such registration was mostly impossible for families driven from their homes in the country’s vicious civil war. With no way to “register,” families displaced outside of Baghdad entered their new residences without even the increasingly meager safety net offered by guaranteed subsidies of basic food supplies.

To make matters worse, almost three-quarters of the displaced were women or children and very few of the intact families had working fathers. Unemployment rates in most cities to which they were forced to move were already at or above 50%, so prostitution and child labor increasingly became necessary options. UNICEF reported that a large proportion of children in such families were hungry, clinically underweight, and short for their age. “In some areas, up to 90 per cent of the [displaced] children are not in school,” the UN agency reported.

Losing Precious Resources

The job backgrounds of an extraordinary proportion of Iraqi refugees in Syria were professional, managerial, or administrative. In other words, they were collectively the repository of the precious human capital that would otherwise have been needed to sustain, repair, and eventually rebuild their country’s ravaged infrastructure. In Iraq, approximately 10% of adults had attended college; more than one-third of the refugees in Syria were university educated. Whereas less than 1% of Iraqis had a postgraduate education, nearly 10% of refugees in Syria had advanced degrees, including 4.5% with doctorates. At the opposite end of the economic spectrum, fully 20% of all Iraqis had no schooling, but only a relative handful of the refugees arriving in Syria (3%) had no education. These proportions were probably even more striking in other more distant receiving lands, where entry was more difficult.

The reasons for this remarkable brain drain are not hard to find. Even the desperate process of fleeing your home turns out to require resources, and so refugees from most disasters who travel great distances tend to be disproportionately prosperous, as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans so painfully illustrated.

In Iraq, this tendency was enhanced by American policy. The mass privatization and de-Baathification policies of the Bush administration ensured that large numbers of professional, technical, and managerial workers, in particular, would be cast out of their former lives. This tendency was only exacerbated by the development of the kidnapping industry, focusing its attentions as it did on families with sufficient resources to pay handsome ransoms. It was amplified when some insurgent groups began assassinating remaining government officials, university professors, and other professionals.

The exodus into the Iraqi Diaspora has severely depleted the country’s human capital. In early 2006, the United States Committee on Refugees and Immigrants estimated that a full 40% of Iraqi’s professional class had left the country, taking with them their irreplaceable expertise. Universities and medical facilities were particularly hard hit, with some reporting less than 20% of needed staff on hand. The oil industry suffered from what the Wall Street Journal called a “petroleum exodus” that included the departure of two-thirds of its top 100 managers, as well as significant numbers of managerial and professional workers.

Even before the huge 2007 exodus from Baghdad, the United Nations Commissioner of Refugees warned that “the skills required to provide basic services are becoming more and more scarce,” pointing particularly to doctors, teachers, computer technicians, and even skilled craftsmen like bakers.

By mid-2007, the loss of these resources was visible in the everyday functioning of Iraqi society. By then, medical facilities commonly required patients’ families to act as nurses and technicians and were still unable to perform many services. Schools were often closed, or opened only sporadically, because of an absence of qualified teachers. Universities postponed or canceled required courses or qualifying examinations because of inadequate staff. At the height of an incipient cholera epidemic in the summer of 2007, water purification plants were idled because needed technicians could not be found.

The most devastating impact of the Iraqi refugee crisis, however, has probably been on the very capacity of the national government (which de-Baathification and privatization had already left in a fragile state) to administer anything. In every area that such a government might touch, the missing managerial, technical, and professional talent and expertise has had a devastating effect, with post-war “reconstruction” particularly hard hit. Even the ability of the government to disperse its income (mostly from oil revenues) has been crippled by what cabinet ministers have termed “a shortage of employees trained to write contracts” and “the flight of scientific and engineering expertise from the country.”

The depths of the problem (as well as the massive levels of corruption that went with it) could be measured by the fact that the electrical ministry spent only 26% of its capital budget in 2006; the remaining three-quarters went unspent. Yet, at that level of disbursement, it still outperformed most government agencies and ministries in a major way. Under pressure from American occupation officials to improve its performance in 2007, the government made concerted efforts to increase both its budget and its disbursements for reconstruction. Despite initially optimistic reports, the news was grim by year’s end. Actual expenditures on electrical infrastructure might, for example, have slipped to as low as 1% of the budgeted amount.

Even more symptomatic were the few successes in infrastructural rebuilding found by New York Times reporter James Glanz in a survey of capital construction throughout the country. Most of the successful programs he reviewed were initiated and managed by officials connected to local and provincial governments. They discovered that success actually depended on avoiding any interaction with the ineffective and corrupt central government. The provincial governor of Babil Province, Sallem S. al-Mesamawe, described the key to his province’s success: “We jumped over the routine, the bureaucracy, and we depend on new blood—a new team.” They had learned this lesson after using provincial money and local contractors to build a school, only to have it remain closed because the national government was unable to provide the necessary furniture.

The government’s staggering institutional incapacity is, in fact, a complex phenomenon with many sources beyond the drain of human capital. The flood of managers, professionals, and technicians out of the country, however, has been a critical obstacle to any productive reconstruction. Worse yet, the departure of so many crucial figures is probably to a considerable extent irreversible, ensuring a grim near-future for the country. After all, this has been a “brain drain” on a scale seldom seen in our era.

Many exiles still intend to, even long to, return when (or if) the situation improves, but time is always the enemy of such intentions. The moment an individual arrives in a new country, he or she begins creating social ties that become ever more significant as a new life takes hold—and this is even truer for those who leave with their families, as so many Iraqis have done. Unless this network-building process is disrupted, for many the probability of return fades with each passing month.

Those with marketable skills, even in the dire circumstances facing most Iraqi refugees, have little choice but to keep seeking work that exploits their training. The most marketable are the most likely to succeed and so to begin building new careers. As time slips by, the best, the brightest, and the most important carriers of precious human capital are lost.

The Displacement Tsunami

The degradation of Iraq under the American occupation regime was what initially set in motion the forces that led to the exile of much of the country’s most precious human resources—absolutely crucial capital, even if of a kind not usually considered when talk turns to investing in “nation building.” How, after all, can you “reconstruct” the ravaged foundations of a bombed-out nation without the necessary professional, technical, and managerial personnel? Without them, Iraq must continue its downward spiral toward a nation of slum cities.

The orgy of failure and corruption in 2007 was an unmitigated disaster for Iraqi society, as well as an embarrassment for the American occupation. From the point of view of long-term American goals in Iraq, however, this storm cloud, like so many others, had a silver lining. The Iraqi government’s incapacity to perform at almost any level became but further justification for the claims first made by L. Paul Bremer at the very beginning of the occupation: that the country’s reconstruction would be best handled by private enterprise. Moreover, the mass flight of Iraqi professionals, managers, and technicians has meant that expertise for reconstruction has simply been unavailable inside the country. This has, in turn, validated a second set of claims made by Bremer: that reconstruction could only be managed by large outside contractors.

This neoliberal reality was brought into focus in late 2007, as the last of the money allocated by the U.S. Congress for Iraqi reconstruction was being spent. A “petroleum exodus” (first identified by the Wall Street Journal) had long ago meant that most of the engineers needed for maintaining the decrepit oil business were already foreigners, mostly “imported from Texas and Oklahoma.” The foreign presence had, in fact, become so pervasive that the main headquarters for the maintenance and development of the Rumaila oil field in southern Iraq (the source of more than two-thirds of the country’s oil at present) runs on both Iraqi and Houston time. The American firms in charge of the field’s maintenance and development, KBR and PIJV, have been utilizing a large number of subcontractors, most of them American or British, very few of them Iraqi.

These American-funded projects, though, have been merely “stopgaps.” When the money runs out, vast new moneys will be needed just to sustain Rumaila’s production at its present level.

According to Harper’s Magazine Senior Editor Luke Mitchell, who visited the field in the summer of 2007, Iraqi engineers and technicians are “smart enough and ambitious enough” to sustain and “upgrade” the system once the American contracts expire, but such a project would take upwards of two decades because of the compromised condition of the government and the lack of skilled local engineers and technicians. The likely outcome, when the American money departs, therefore is either an inadequate effort in which work proceeds “only in fits and starts;” or, more likely, new contracts in which the foreign companies would “continue their work,” paid for by the Iraqi government.

With regard to the petroleum industry, therefore, what the refugee crisis guaranteed was long-term Iraqi dependence on outsiders. In every other key infrastructural area, a similar dependence was developing: electrical power, the water system, medicine, and food were, de facto, being “integrated” into the global system, leaving oil-rich Iraq dependent on outside investment and largesse for the foreseeable future. Now, that’s a twenty-year plan for you, one that at least 4.5 million Iraqis, out of their homes and, in many cases, out of the country as well, will be in no position to participate in.

Most horror stories come to an end, but the most horrible part of this horror story is its never-ending quality. Those refugees who have left Iraq now face a miserable limbo life, as Syria and other receiving countries exhaust their meager resources and seek to expel many of them. Those seeking shelter within Iraq face the depletion of already minimal support systems in degrading host communities whose residents may themselves be threatened with displacement.

From the vast out-migration and internal migrations of its desperate citizens comes damage to society as a whole that is almost impossible to estimate. The displacement of people carries with it the destruction of human capital. The destruction of human capital deprives Iraq of its most precious resource for repairing the damage of war and occupation, condemning it to further infrastructural decline. This tide of infrastructural decline is the surest guarantee of another wave of displacement, of future floods of refugees.

As long as the United States keeps trying to pacify Iraq, it will create wave after wave of misery.

Michael Schwartz, professor of sociology at Stony Brook University, has written extensively on popular protest and insurgency. This report on the Iraqi refugee crisis is from his forthcoming Tomdispatch book, War Without End: The Iraq Debacle in Context (Haymarket Books, June 2008). His work on Iraq has appeared on numerous Internet sites, including Tomdispatch, Asia Times, Mother Jones, Information Clearing House and ZNET. His email address is Ms42@optonline.net.

The US-NATO Preemptive Nuclear Doctrine: Trigger a Middle East Nuclear Holocaust to Defend “The Western Way of Life” by Michel Chossudovsky

February 12, 2008

The US-NATO Preemptive Nuclear Doctrine: Trigger a Middle East Nuclear Holocaust to Defend “The Western Way of Life” by Michel Chossudovsky

Dandelion Salad

by Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research, February 11, 2008

What the Western allies face is a long, sustained and proactive defence of their societies and way of life. To that end, they must keep risks at a distance, while at the same time protecting their homelands.

International terrorism today aims to disrupt and destroy our societies, our economies and our way of life. …

These different sources of [Islamist] propaganda and/or violence vary in their intellectual underpinnings, sectarian and political aims, … . But what they have in common is an assault on the values of the West – on its democratic processes and its freedom of religion…

Notwithstanding the common perception in the West, the origin of Islamist terrorism is not victimhood, nor an inferiority complex, but a well-financed superiority complex grounded in a violent political ideology.

If the irrational and fanatical [Islamist organizations] get out of hand, there is a risk that, … the rise of fundamentalisms and despotisms will usher in a new, illiberal age, in which the liberties that Western societies enjoy are seriously jeopardized.

The threats that the West and its partners face today are a combination of violent terrorism against civilians and institutions, wars fought by proxy by states that sponsor terrorism, the behaviour of rogue states, the actions of organised international crime, and the coordination of hostile action through abuse of non-military means.

Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World: Renewing Transatlantic Partnership”.

Group report by former chiefs of staff General John Shalikashvili, (US), General Klaus Naumann (Germany), Field Marshal Lord Inge (UK), Admiral Jacques Lanxade (France) and Henk van den Breemen (The Netherlands), published by the Netherlands based Noaber Foundation, December 2007, (emphasis added)

The controversial NATO sponsored report entitled Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World: Renewing Transatlantic Partnership“. calls for a first strike use of nuclear weapons. The preemptive use of nukes would also be used to undermine an “increasingly brutal World” as a means to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction:

“They [the authors of the report] consider that nuclear war might soon become possible in an increasingly brutal world. They propose the first use of nuclear weapons must remain “in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction”. (Paul Dibb, Sidney Morning Herald, 11 February 2008)

The group, insists that the option of first strike of nuclear weapons is “indispensable, since there is simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world.” (Report, p. 97, emphasis added):

Nuclear weapons are the ultimate instrument of an asymmetric response – and at the same time the ultimate tool of escalation. Yet they are also more than an instrument, since they transform the nature of any conflict and widen its scope from the regional to the global. …

…Nuclear weapons remain indispensable, and nuclear escalation continues to remain an element of any modern strategy.

Nuclear escalation is the ultimate step in responding asymmetrically, and at the same time the most powerful way of inducing uncertainty in an opponent’s mind. (Ibid, emphasis added)

The Group’s Report identifies six key “challenges”, which may often result as potential threats to global security:

Demography. Population growth and change across the globe will swiftly change the world we knew. The challenge this poses for welfare, good governance and energy security (among other things) is vast.

Climate change. This greatly threatens physical certainty, and is leading to a whole new type of politics – one predicated, perhaps more than ever, on our collective future.

Energy security continues to absorb us. The supply and demand of individual nations and the weakening of the international market infrastructure for energy distribution make the situation more precarious than ever.

There is also the more philosophic problem of the rise of the irrational – the discounting of the rational. Though seemingly abstract, this problem is demonstrated in deeply practical ways. [These include] the decline of respect for logical argument and evidence, a drift away from science in a civilization that is deeply technological. The ultimate example is the rise of religious fundamentalism, which, as political fanaticism, presents itself as the only source of certainty.

The weakening of the nation state. This coincides with the weakening of world institutions, including the United Nations and regional organizations such as the European Union, NATO and others.

The dark side of globalization … These include internationalized terrorism, organized crime and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but also asymmetric threats from proxy actors or the abuse of financial and energy leverage. (Ibid)

Deterrence and Pre-emption

According to the Report, a new concept of deterrence is required directed against both State and non-state actors, This “new deterrence” is based on pre-emption as well as on the ability to “restore deterrence through [military] escalation”. In this context, the Report contemplates, what it describes as:

escalation dominance, the use of a full bag of both carrots and sticks—and indeed all instruments of soft and hard power, ranging from the diplomatic protest to nuclear weapons.” (Report, op city, emphasis added).

Iran

In much the same terms as the Bush administration, the NATO sponsored report states, without evidence, that Iran constitutes “a major strategic threat”:

“An Iranian nuclear weapons capability would pose a major strategic threat – not only to Israel, which it has threatened to destroy, but also to the region as a whole, to Europe and to the United States. Secondly, it could be the beginning of a new multi-polar nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.” (Report, op. cit., p. 45)

Careful timing? The controversial NATO sponsored report calling for a preemptive nuclear attack on Iran was released shortly after the publication of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report entitled Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities. The latter denies Iran’s nuclear capabilities. The NIE report, based on the assessments of sixteen US intelligence agencies, refutes the Bush administration’s main justification for waging a preemptive nuclear war on Iran. The NIE report confirms that Iran “halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.”

“These findings constitute a damning indictment of the Bush administration’s relentless fear-mongering in relation to an alleged nuclear threat from Iran. They demonstrate that just as in the buildup to the war against Iraq five years ago, the White House has been engaged in a systematic campaign to drag the American people into another war based on lies.” (See Bill van Auken, 24 January 2008)

It should be noted that this recently declassified intelligence ( pertaining to Iran contained in the 2007 NIE report) was known by the White House, the Pentagon and most probably NATO since September 2003. Ironically, US military documents confirm that the Bush Administration initiated its war preparations against Iran in July 2003, two months prior to the confirmation by US intelligence that Iran did not constitute a nuclear threat.

The July 2003 war scenarios were launched under TIRANNT: Theater Iran Near Term.

The justification for TIRANNT as well as for subsequent US war plans directed against Iran ( which as of 2004 included the active participation of NATO and Israel), has always been that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and plans to use them against us.

Following the publication of the 2007 NIE in early December, there has been an avalanche of media propaganda directed against Tehran, essentially with a view to invalidating the statements of the NIE concerning Tehran’s nuclear program.

Moreover, a third sanctions resolution by the UN Security Council, was initiated with a view to forcing Iran to halt uranium enrichment. The proposed UNSC resolution, which is opposed by China and Russia includes a travel ban on Iranian officials involved in the country’s nuclear programs, and inspections of shipments to and from Iran “if there are suspicions of prohibited goods” (AFP, 11 February 2008). Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy together with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, have been calling for a unified EU sanctions regime against Iran.

Contradicting the US national intelligence estimate (NIE), Bush’s most recent speeches continue to portray Iran as a nuclear threat:

“I feel pretty good about making sure that we keep the pressure on Iran to pressure them so they understand they’re isolated, to pressure them to affect their economy, to pressure them to the point that we hope somebody rational shows up and says, okay, it’s not worth it anymore,” Bush said.

Threat to “The Western Way of Life”

The Western media is involved in a diabolical disinformation campaign, the purpose of which is to persuade public opinion that the only way to “create a nuclear free World” is to use nuclear weapons on a preemptive basis, against countries which “threaten our Western Way of Life.”

The Western world is threatened. The NATO report, according to Paul Dibb: “paint(s) an alarming picture of the threats confronting the West, arguing that its values and way of life are under threat and that we are struggling to summon the will to defend them.”(Dibb, op cit)

A preemptive nuclear attack — geographically confined to Middle East (minus Israel?)– is the proposed end-game. The attack would use US tactical nuclear weapons, which, according to “scientific opinion” (on contract to the Pentagon) are “harmless to the surrounding civilian population because the explosion is underground”. (See Michel Chossudovsky The Dangers of a Middle East Nuclear Holocaust, Global Research, 17 February 2006)

B61-11 bunker buster bombs with nuclear warheads Made in America, with an explosive capacity between one third to six times a Hiroshima bomb, are presented as bona fide humanitarian bombs, which minimize the dangers of “collateral damage”.

These in-house “scientific” Pentagon assessments regarding the mini-nukes are refuted by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS):

Any attempt to use a [B61-11 bunker buster nuclear bomb] in an urban environment would result in massive civilian casualties. Even at the low end of its 0.3-300 kiloton yield range, the nuclear blast will simply blow out a huge crater of radioactive material, creating a lethal gamma-radiation field over a large area ” (Low-Yield Earth-Penetrating Nuclear Weapons by Robert W. Nelson, Federation of American Scientists, 2001 ).

Professor Paul Dibb is a former Australian Deputy Secretary of Defense., who has over the years also occupied key positions in Australia’s defense and intelligence establishment. Dibb carefully overlooks the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons in a conventional war theater. According to Dibb, NATO preemptive nuclear doctrine, which replicates that of the Pentagon, constitutes a significant and positive initiative to “halt the imminent spread of nuclear weapons”. .

“They [the group] believe that the West must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the imminent spread of nuclear weapons.”

Never mind the nuclear holocaust and resulting radioactive contamination, which would spread Worldwide and threaten, in a real sense, the “way of life”.

There is no “way of life” in a World contaminated with deadly radioactive material. But this is something that is rarely discussed in the corridors of NATO or in strategic studies programs in Western universities.

Nukes: Just Another Tool in the Military Toolbox

What is frightening in Professor Dibb’s article is that he is not expressing an opinion, nor is he analyzing the use of nuclear weapons from an academic research point of view.

In his article, there is neither research on nuclear weapons nor is there an understanding of the complex geopolitics of the Middle East war. Dibb is essentially repeating verbatim the statements contained in NATO/Pentagon military documents. His article is a “copy and paste” summary of Western nuclear doctrine, which in practice calls for the launching of a nuclear holocaust.

The stated objective of a Middle East nuclear holocaust is “to prevent the occurrence of a nuclear war”. An insidious logic which certainly out- dwarfs the darkest period of the Spanish inquisition…

Neither NATO nor the Pentagon use the term nuclear holocaust. Moreover, they presume that the “collateral damage” of a nuclear war will in any event be confined geographically to the Middle East and that Westerners will be spared…

But since their in-house scientists have confirmed that tactical nuclear weapons are “safe for civilians”, the labels on the bombs have been switched much in the same way as the label on a packet of cigarettes: “This nuclear bomb is safe for civilians”

The new definition of a nuclear warhead has blurred the distinction between conventional and nuclear weapons:

‘It’s a package (of nuclear and conventional weapons). The implication of this obviously is that nuclear weapons are being brought down from a special category of being a last resort, or sort of the ultimate weapon, to being just another tool in the toolbox,” (Japan Economic News Wire, op cit)

This re-categorization has been carried out. The ” green light” for the use of tactical nuclear weapons has been granted by the US Congress. . ” Let’s use them, they are part of the military toolbox.”

We are a dangerous crossroads: military planners believe their own propaganda. The military manuals state that this new generation of nuclear weapons are “safe” for use in the battlefield. They are no longer a weapon of last resort. There are no impediments or political obstacles to their use. In this context, Senator Edward Kennedy has accused the Bush Administration for having developed “a generation of more useable nuclear weapons.”

Russia and China

Who else constitutes a threat to ” the Western way of life”?

Nukes are also slated to be used against Russia and China, former enemies of the Cold War era.

This post Cold War logic was first revealed, when the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) was leaked to The Los Angeles Times in January 2002. The NPR includes China and Russia alongside the rogue states as potential targets for a first strike nuclear attack. According to William Arkin, the NPR “offers a chilling glimpse into the world of nuclear-war planners: With a Strangelovian genius, they cover every conceivable circumstance in which the president might wish to use nuclear weapons-planning in great detail.” (Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2002)

“Decapitate Their Leadership and Destroy their Countries as Functioning Societies”

The use of nukes against “rogue states”, including Iran and North Korea (which lost more than a quarter of its population in US bombings during the Korean war) is justified because these countries could act in an “irrational” way. It therefore makes sense to “take em out” before they do something irrational. The objective is: “decapitate their leadership and destroy their countries as functioning societies”:

“One line of reasoning is that so-called rogue states, such as Iran and North Korea, are sufficiently irrational to risk a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the US or its allies, such as Israel and South Korea.

The supposition here is that deterrence – that is, threatening the other side with obliteration – no longer works. But even the nasty regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang must know that the US reserves the right to use its overwhelming nuclear force to decapitate the leadership and destroy their countries as modern functioning societies. (Dibb, op cit., emphasis added)

Use nuclear weapons to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction.

But of course, lest we forget, America’s nuclear arsenal as well as that of France, Britain and Israel are not categorized as “weapons of mass destruction”, in comparison with Iran’s deadly nonexistent nuclear weapons program.

Bin Laden’s Nuclear Program

Now comes the authoritative part of the NATO sponsored report: We need to use nukes against bin Laden, because Islamic “fanatics” can actually make a nuclear weapons or buy them from the Russians in the black market.

The Report calls for a first strike nuclear attack directed against Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, which has the ability, according to expert opinion, of actually producing small nuclear bombs, which could be used in a Second 9/11 attack on America: .

The second line of reasoning [contained in the NATO sponsored report] is more difficult to refute. It argues that extreme fanatical terrorists, such as al-Qaeda, cannot be deterred because (a) they do not represent a country and therefore cannot be targeted and (b) they welcome death by suicide. So, we have to shift the concept of nuclear deterrence to the country or regime supplying the terrorists with fissile material.

Nuclear weapons require materials that can be made only with difficulty. Once these materials are obtained by terrorists, however, the barriers to fabricating a weapon are much lower. In that sense the nuclear threat today is greater than it was in the Cold War and it seems the terrorists cannot be deterred.( Dibb, op cit, emphasis added)

The alleged nuclear threat by Al Qaeda is taken very seriously. The Bush administration has responded with overall defense spending (budget plus war theater) in excess of one trillion dollars. This massive amount of public money has been allocated to financing the “Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT).

Confirmed by Pentagon documents, this military hardware including aircraft carriers, fighter jets, cruise missiles and nuclear bunker buster bombs, is slated to be used as part of the “Global War on Terrorism”. In military jargon the US is involved in asymmetric warfare against non-State enemies. (The concept of Asymmetric Warfare was defined in The National Defense Strategy of the United States of America (2005)

“The American Hiroshima”

The US media has the distinct ability to turn realities upside down. The lies are upheld as indelible truths. The “Islamic terrorists” have abandoned their AK 47 kalashnikov rifles and stinger missiles; they are not only developing deadly chemical and biological weapons, they also have nuclear capabilities.

The fact, amply documented, that Al Qaeda is supported by the CIA and Britain’s MI6 is beside the point.

The nuclear threat is not directed against the Middle East but against the USA, the perpetrators and architects of nuclear war are bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, which is planning to launch a nuclear attack on an American city:

“U.S. government officials are contemplating what they consider to be an inevitable and much bigger assault on America, one likely to kill millions, destroy the economy and fundamentally alter the course of history,…

According to captured al-Qaida leaders and documents, the plan is called the “American Hiroshima” and involves the multiple detonation of nuclear weapons already smuggled into the U.S. over the Mexican border with the help of the MS-13 street gang and other organized crime groups. (World Net Daily, 11 July 2005, emphasis added)

The New York Times confirms that an Al Qaeda sponsored “American Hiroshima” “could happen” .

“Experts believe that such an attack, somewhere, is likely.” (NYT, 11 August 2004)

According to the Aspen Strategy Group which is integrated among others, by Madeleine Albright, Richard Armitage, Philip D. Zelikow, Robert B. Zoellick, “the danger of nuclear terrorism is much greater than the public believes, and our government hasn’t done nearly enough to reduce it.”:

If a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon, a midget even smaller than the one that destroyed Hiroshima, exploded in Times Square, the fireball would reach tens of millions of degrees Fahrenheit. It would vaporize or destroy the theater district, Madison Square Garden, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal and Carnegie Hall (along with me and my building). The blast would partly destroy a much larger area, including the United Nations. On a weekday some 500,000 people would be killed. (NYT, 11 August 2004)

“Threaten them with a devastating [nuclear] attack”

According to professor Dibb, nuclear deterrence should also apply in relation to Al Qaeda, by holding responsible the governments which help the terrorists to develop their nuclear weapons capabilities:

“Ashton Carter, a former US assistant secretary for defense, has recently argued, the realistic response is to hold responsible, as appropriate, the government from which the terrorists obtained the weapon or fissile materials and threaten them with a devastating [nuclear] strike. In other words, deterrence would work again. (Dibb, op cit)

The real nuclear threat is coming from bin Laden. The objective is to “to do away with our way of life”:

None of this is to underestimate the impact of a nuclear weapon being detonated in an American city. It could be catastrophic, but it is highly unlikely to threaten the very survival of the US. To believe otherwise risks surrendering to the fear and intimidation that is precisely the terrorists’ stock in trade.

General Richard Myers, another former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, has claimed that if [Islamic] terrorists were able to kill 10,000 Americans in a nuclear attack, they would “do away with our way of life”. But Hiroshima and Nagasaki incurred well over 100,000 instant deaths and that did not mean the end of the Japanese way of life. (Ibid, emphasis added)

In an utterly twisted and convoluted argument, professor Dibb transforms the US-NATO threat to wage a nuclear war on Iran into an Al Qaeda operation to attack an American city with nuclear weapon.

Dibb presents the US-NATO menace to trigger what would result in a Middle East nuclear holocaust as a humanitarian operation to save American lives. By implication, the Al Qaeda sponsored “American Hiroshima” would be supported by Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. and this in turn would immediately provide a juste cause (casus belli) for retaliation against Iran

What a nuclear attack on a US city would mean, however, is an understandable American retaliation in kind. So, those countries that have slack control over their fissile nuclear materials and cozy relations with terrorists need to watch out. A wounded America would be under enormous pressure to respond in a wholly disproportionate manner.

And then we would be in a completely changed strategic situation in which the use of nuclear weapons might become commonplace. Ibid, emphasis added).

Dick Cheney’s Second 9/11

The insinuation that Al Qaeda is preparing an attack on America has been on the lips of Vice President Dick Cheney for several years now. Cheney has stated on several occasions since 2004, that Al Qaeda is preparing a “Second 9/11″: .

In August 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney is reported to have instructed USSTRATCOM, based at the Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, to draw up a “Contingency Plan”, “to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States”. (Philip Giraldi, Attack on Iran: Pre-emptive Nuclear War, The American Conservative, 2 August 2005)

Dick Cheney’s “Contingency Plan” was predicated on the preemptive war doctrine. Implied in the “Contingency Plan” was the presumption that Iran would be behind the attacks.

The Pentagon in a parallel initiative has actually fine-tuned its military agenda to the point of actually envisaging a Second 9/11 scenario as a means to providing the US administration with a “credible” justification to attack Iran and Syria:

Another [9/11 type terrorist] attack could create both a justification and an opportunity that is lacking today to retaliate against some known targets [Iran and Syria]” (Statement by Pentagon official, leaked to the Washington Post, 23 April 2006, emphasis added)

Meanwhile,. the US Congress is concerned that an “American Hiroshima” could potentially damage the US economy:

“What we do know is that our enemies want to inflict massive casualties and that terrorists have the expertise to invent a wide range of attacks, including those involving the use of chemical, biological, radiological and even nuclear weapons. … [E]xploding a small nuclear weapon in a major city could do incalculable harm to hundreds of thousands of people, as well as to businesses and the economy,…(US Congress, House Financial Services Committee, June 21, 2007).

As far as sensitizing public opinion to the dangers of US sponsored nuclear war, there is, with a few exceptions, a scientific and intellectual vacuum: No research, no analysis, no comprehension of the meaning of a nuclear holocaust which in a real sense threatens the future of humanity. This detachment and lack of concern of prominent intellectuals characterizes an evolving trend in many universities and research institutes in the strategic studies, the sciences and social sciences.

Academics increasingly tow the line. They remain mum on the issue of a US sponsored nuclear war. There is a tacit acceptance of a diabolical and criminal military agenda, which in a very sense threatens life on this planet. The US-NATO doctrine to use nukes on a preemptive basis with a view to “saving the Western World’s way of life” is not challenged in any meaningful way either by academics or media experts in strategic studies.

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