Archive for November, 2007

Once upon a time, a dangerous radical gained control of the US Republican Party.

November 30, 2007

Once upon a time, a dangerous radical gained control of the US Republican Party.

Reagan increased the budget for support of the radical Muslim Mujahidin conducting terrorism against the Afghanistan government to half a billion dollars a year.

One fifth of the money, which the CIA mostly turned over to Pakistani military intelligence to distribute, went to Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, a violent extremist who as a youth used to throw acid on the faces of unveiled girls in Afghanistan.

Not content with creating a vast terrorist network to harass the Soviets, Reagan then pressured the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to match US contributions. He had earlier imposed on Fahd to give money to the Contras in Nicaragua, some of which was used to create rightwing death squads. (Reagan liked to sidestep Congress in creating private terrorist organizations for his foreign policy purposes, which he branded “freedom fighters,” giving terrorists the idea that it was all right to inflict vast damage on civilians in order to achieve their goals).

Fahd was a timid man and resisted Reagan’s instructions briefly, but finally gave in to enormous US pressure.

Fahd not only put Saudi government money into the Afghan Mujahideen networks, which trained them in bomb making and guerrilla tactics, but he also instructed the Minister of Intelligence, Turki al-Faisal, to try to raise money from private sources.

Turki al-Faisal checked around and discovered that a young member of the fabulously wealthy Bin Laden construction dynasty, Usama, was committed to Islamic causes. Turki thus gave Usama the task of raising money from Gulf millionaires for the Afghan struggle. This whole effort was undertaken, remember, on Reagan Administration instructions.

Bin Laden not only raised millions for the effort, but helped encourage Arab volunteers to go fight for Reagan against the Soviets and the Afghan communists. The Arab volunteers included people like Ayman al-Zawahiri, a young physician who had been jailed for having been involved in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar El-Sadat. Bin Laden kept a database of these volunteers. In Arabic the word for base is al-Qaeda.

In the US, the Christian Right adopted the Mujahideen as their favorite project. They even sent around a “biblical checklist” for grading US congressman as to how close they were to the “Christian” political line. If a congressman didn’t support the radical Muslim Muj, he or she was downgraded by the evangelicals and fundamentalists.

Reagan wanted to give more and more sophisticated weapons to the Mujahideen (“freedom fighters”). The Pakistani generals were forming an alliance with the fundamentalist Jamaat-i Islam and begining to support madrasahs or hardline seminaries that would teach Islamic extremism. But even they balked at giving the ragtag Muj really advanced weaponry. Pakistan had a close alliance with China, and took advice from Beijing.

In 1985 Reagan sent Senator Orrin Hatch, Undersecretary of Defense Fred Iklé and others to Beijing to ask China to put pressure on Pakistan to allow the US to give the Muslim radicals, such as Hikmatyar, more sophisticated weapons. Hatch succeeded in this mission.

By giving the Muj weaponry like the stinger shoulderheld missile, which could destroy advanced Soviet arms like their helicopter gunships, Reagan demonstrated to the radical Muslims that they could defeat a super power.

Reagan also decided to build up Saddam Hussein in Iraq as a counterweight to Khomeinist Iran, authorizing US and Western companies to send him precursors for chemical and biological weaponry. At one point Donald Rumsfeld was sent to Iraq to assure Saddam that it was all right if he used chemical weapons against the Iranians. Reagan had no taste in friends.

On becoming president, George H. W. Bush made a deal with the Soviets that he would cut the Mujahideen off if the Soviets would leave Afghanistan. The last Soviet troops departed in early 1989. The US then turned its back on Afghanistan and allowed it to fall into civil war, as the radical Muslim factions fostered by Washington and Riyadh turned against one another and used their extensive weaponry on each other and on civilians.

In the meantime, Saddam, whom the US had built up as a major military power, invaded Kuwait. The Bush senior administration now had to take on its former protege, and put hundreds of thousands of US troops into the Gulf and Saudi Arabia. The radical Muslim extremists with whom Reagan and Bush had allied in Afghanistan now turned on the US, objecting strenuously to a permanent US military presence in the Muslim holy land.

From 1994 Afghanistan was increasingly dominated by a faction of Mujahideen known as Taliban or seminary students (who were backed by Pakistani military intelligence, which learned the trick from Reagan and which were flush from all those billions the Reagan administration had funneled into the region). In 1996 Bin Laden came back and reestablished himself there, becoming the leader of 5,000 radical Arab volunteers that Reagan had urged Fahd to help come to Afghanistan back in the 1980s.

In the meantime, the US had steadfastly supported Israeli encroachments on the Palestinian Occupied Territories and the gradual complete annexation of Jerusalem, the third holiest city to Muslims.

Since the outbreak of the first intifada, Israeli troops had riposted with brutality. Even after the Oslo accords were signed, the size of Israeli colonies in the Palestinian West Bank and around Jerusalem doubled.

A steady drumbeat of violence against Palestinians by Israelis, who were stealing their land and clearly intended to monopolize their sacred space, enraged the Muslim radicals that had been built up and coddled by Reagan.

In 1998, al-Qaeda and al-Jihad al-Islami, two small terrorist groups established in Afghanistan as a result of the Reagan jihad, declared war on the United States and Israel (the “Zionists and Crusaders”). After attacks by al-Qaeda cells on US embassies in East Africa and on the USS Cole, nineteen of them ultimately used jet planes to attack the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

The Bush administration responded to these attacks by the former proteges of Ronald Reagan by putting the old Mujahideen warlords back in charge of Afghanistan’s provinces, allowing Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri to escape, declaring that Americans no longer needed a Bill of Rights, and suddenly invading another old Reagan protege, Saddam’s Iraq, which had had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed no threat to the US. The name given this bizarre set of actions by Bush was “the War on Terror.”

In Iraq, the US committed many atrocities, including bombing campaigns on civilian quarters of cities it had already occupied, and a ferocious assault on Fallujah, and tortured Iraqi prisoners.

In the meantime, the Bush administration put virtually no money or effort into actually combatting terrorist cells in places like Morocco, as opposed to putting $200 billion into the Iraq war and aftermath. As a result, a string of terrorist attacks were allowed to strike at Madrid, London and elsewhere.

Fred Ikle, who had been part of the Reaganist/Chinese Communist effort to convince Muslim fundamentalist generals in Pakistan–against their better judgment– to allow the US to give the radical Muslim extremists even more sophisticated weapons, wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal urging the nuking of Mecca.

Then in July, 2005, General Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that there was not actually any “War on Terror:” ‘ General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Press Club on Monday that he had “objected to the use of the term ‘war on terrorism’ before, because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution.” ‘ (Question: Does this mean we can have the Bill of Rights back, now?)

The American Right, having created the Mujahideen and having mightily contributed to the creation of al-Qaeda, abruptly announced that there was something deeply wrong with Islam, that it kept producing terrorists.

——-

Go here for some telling excerpts from Coll’s excellent Ghost Wars. posted by Juan Cole @ 8/02/2005 05:05:00 PM

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Blowback From Moscow

November 30, 2007

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Our next president will likely face a Russia led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, determined to stand up to a West that Russians believe played them for fools when they sought to be friends.

Americans who think Putin has never been anything but a KGB thug will reject accusations of any U.S. role in causing the ruination of relations between us.

Yet the hubris of Bill Clinton and George Bush I, and the Russophobia of those they brought with them into power, has been a primary cause of the ruptured relationship. And the folly of what they did is evident today, as Putin’s party, United Russia, rolls to triumph on a torrent of abuse and invective against the West.

Entering the campaign’s final week, Putin, addressing a rally of 5,000, ripped the Other Russia coalition led by chess champion Gary Kasparov as poodles of the United States, “who sponge off foreign embassies … and who count on the support of foreign resources and governments, and not of their own people.”

“Those who oppose us,” roared Putin, “don’t want our plans to be completed. They have completely different tasks and a completely different view of Russia. They need a weak, sick state, a disoriented, divided society, so that behind its back they can get up to their dirty deeds and profit at your and my expense.”

Putin is referring to the time of the “oligarchs” of the Yeltsin era, who looted Russia when its state assets were sold off at fire-sale prices.

Putin is also accusing his opponents of attempting to use the Western-devised tactics of mass street protests to bring down his government. “Now that they have learned some things from Western specialists and tried them in the neighboring republics, they are going to try them on our streets.”

Putin is talking here about the “color-coded” revolutions that the U.S. and NATO embassies, the National Endowment for Democracy, and allied foundations and front groups engineered in Ukraine and Georgia. Governments tilting toward Moscow were dumped over and pro-Western regimes installed – to bid for membership in NATO and the European Union.

Blowback is a term broadly used in espionage to describe the unintended consequences of covert operations. The revolution that brought the Ayatollah to power is said to be blowback for the U.S.-engineered coup to overthrow Mossadegh in 1953 and install the Shah.

The nationalism and anti-Americanism rife in Putin’s Russia is blowback for our contemptuous disregard of Russian sensibilities and our arrogant intrusions into Russia’s space. How did we lose a Russia that Ronald Reagan and Bush I had virtually converted into an ally?

We pushed NATO into Moscow’s face, bringing six ex-Warsaw Pact nations and three ex-Soviet republics – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – into our Cold War alliance and plotted to bring in Ukraine and Georgia.

We financed a pipeline from Baku through Georgia to the Black Sea to cut Russia out of the Caspian oil trade. After getting Moscow’s permission to use old Soviet bases in Central Asia to invade Afghanistan, we set about making the bases permanent. We pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty over Moscow’s objection, then announced plans to plant ABM radars in the Czech Republic and anti-missile missiles in Poland.

Putin has now responded in kind, and who can blame him?

As we tried to cut him out of the Azerbaijan oil with a Black Sea pipeline, he is slashing subsidies on Ukraine’s oil and colluding with Germany on a Baltic Sea pipeline to cut Poland out of the oil trade with Western Europe.

As we moved our alliance and bases into his front and back yard, he has entered a quasi-alliance with China and four nations of Central Asia to expel U.S. military power from the region.

As we abandoned the ABM Treaty, the Duma, in November, voted 418 to 0 to suspend participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which restricts the size of the Russian army west of the Urals.

If we recognize Kosovo as independent, at the expense of Serbia, Putin is now threatening to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the breakaway republics of Georgia and Transneistria, claimed by Moldova.

Where we backed the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia, Russia backs its favorites in Kiev and supports street protests in Tbilisi against the pro-American regime of Mikhail Saakashvili, whom the United States now seems powerless to help.

It was not NATO that liberated Eastern Europe. Moscow did – by pulling out the Red Army after half a century. Why, then, did we think moving NATO into Eastern Europe was a surer guarantee of their continued independence than the goodwill of Russia?

Many among our foreign policy elite now talk of a Second Cold War. John McCain wants Russia kicked out of the G-8.

But do we not have enough enemies already that we should add the largest nation on earth?

November 30, 2007

Patrick J. Buchanan [send him mail] is co-founder and editor of The American Conservative. He is also the author of seven books, including Where the Right Went Wrong, and A Republic Not An Empire.

The slaughter of Iraq’s intellectuals

November 30, 2007

Andrew Rubin

Since the occupation began, some 200 leading Iraqi academics, most of them in the humanities and social sciences, have been killed. Is the CIA responsible?

Control, intimidation, and even murder of Iraqi intellectuals, professors, lecturers and teachers has become more or less systematic since the US-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Under the subsequent occupation, initially governed by a body called the Coalition Provisional Authority, US military officials dismissed many Iraqi intellectuals from university positions, often on spurious grounds; and a surprisingly large number fell victim to assassination. The Union of Iraqi Lecturers believes that roughly 200 have been killed, and estimates by various professors in Iraq back up this figure.

Intellectuals, professors, lecturers and teachers are being assassinated on what seems to be almost a regular basis.

To date, the CPA has neither investigated the deaths nor made a single arrest, despite its penchant for rounding up young Iraqis and treating them in barbaric ways in Saddam Hussein’s for- mer prison of choice, Abu Ghraib. A US defence department spokesman, when asked recently about assassinations among the Iraqi intelligentsia, dismissed the matter as simply “obscure”. The Iraqi interim government, installed and hand-picked by the United States, has done nothing and said nothing about it. With the exception of a few courageous individuals such as Saad Jawad, a senior professor of political science at the University of Baghdad, people are unwilling to speak out publicly. When a former doctoral student of Jawad’s was killed at the University of Mosul, Jawad’s colleagues refused to sign a petition supporting a strike. The political forces active in Iraqi society are becoming more fractured, more factional, more sectarian, and more ethnically absolutist.

One university president and several deans have been murdered. What is most striking is that many of those killed since the occupation began were trained not in the physical sciences, but in fields such as the soft sciences and the humanities. In other words, they were not being murdered by loyalists to Saddam Hussein for knowing something about any possible weapons of mass destruction programme. Instead they were, and are, professors of subjects such as French literature, history and the law, where the discussion about conflict can be converted into the conditions for reconciliation.

There is much speculation about who is responsible for these killings. Some allege it is Mossad, the Israeli secret service, which obviously has an interest in a weak and possibly theocratic Iraq – the better to declare Arabs undemocratically minded terrorists. (“It’s not personal; it’s business,” one professor in Baghdad says of Mossad’s possible motives.)

Denis Halliday, a former assistant secretary-general of the UN, has wondered aloud whether this is the work of anti-secular fundamentalists hoping to recruit students to the madrasas and to the tenets of Islamist fundamentalism. Others have pointed to militias such as those commanded by Ahmad Chalabi, once favoured by the Pentagon. At the same time, some allege these are acts of revenge and fury over grades from disgruntled students, now armed, along with the entire civil society, with weapons that the US sold to Iraq without reservation less than two decades ago.

Part of the process of dismis- sing Iraqi intellectuals, professors and lecturers was known as de-Ba’athification: with the exception of a few returned exiles, former Ba’ath Party members make up the vast majority of professors in postwar Iraq. Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, all professors who wished to keep their job were required to join the Ba’ath Party. Yet the US repression of academics was less about protecting academic freedom than a kind of American McCarthyism abroad.

One must ask whether there is a concerted effort to undermine a secular democratic foundation in Iraq’s universities; after all, the prime minister, Iyad Allawi, is himself a former Ba’athist and murderer. According to Robert Dreyfuss, writing in the American Prospect, $3bn of the $87bn going to Iraq has been allotted to fund covert CIA paramilitary operations there, which, if the CIA’s historical record is to be consulted, are likely to include extrajudicial killings and assassinations.

Not that the curriculum under Saddam Hussein was ever a source of a radical renewal that could have actually provided the conditions for the emergence of a secular, moral and democratic leadership. Known as “Arab culture and socialism”, the four-year undergraduate humanities course was a brain-numbing, chauvinistic and hyper-nationalist occasion for unrestrained celebration of Ba’athism, elevating the writings of party theoreticians to canonical heights. Like many other universities in countries of the Arab and developing world, Iraq’s academic institutions, after years of rule by the Ottomans, followed by British and French colonisation, were fundamental to the modern reinvention of national identity. In Egypt, for example, the curriculum underwent a process of Arabisation after the revolution of 1952. Similarly, modern standard Arabic became the official language of Algeria, a former French colony, only in 1962, and for the first time could be uttered outside the mosques.

Yet despite the tyranny exercised over Iraqi society by Saddam Hussein, the university classroom was (some professors often claim) a relatively autonomous space for learning and instruction, where professors, lecturers and students could be openly critical. They could even criticise the government, so long as they never mentioned Saddam personally, or his two sons. Even today, the textbooks retain the same content, altered only by the elimination of images of Saddam and his sons.

Whoever is directly responsible for the dangers facing Iraq’s institutions of learning and its educators, the situation seriously threatens the emergence of a secular, moral and democratic leadership from within Iraq. If such a society is to emerge from beneath the scars caused by years of sanctions, from the rubble left by a remorseless and mendaciously justified war, intellectuals are the best and, in my opinion, the only chance of enabling Iraq to realise its human capabilities.

Without the intelligentsia, the US and its allies will continue arrogating to themselves the right to determine the form that Iraq’s universities and knowledge should assume. It is vital for the future of the country that Iraq maintain the separation between the university and political society.

Andrew N Rubin, assistant professor of English literature at Georgetown University, US, is the director of the International Coalition of Academics Against Occupation (www.icaao.org) and the author of a forthcoming book, Archives of Authority

Victims of unknown assassins

Among the scores of senior academics who have been killed since the start of the western occupation are:

Muhammad al-Rawi, president of the University of Baghdad; Dr Abdul-Latif al-Mayah, professor of political science at Baghdad’s Mustansiriyah University; Dr Nafa Aboud, a professor of Arabic literature at the University of Baghdad; Dr Sabri al-Bayati, a geographer at the University of Baghdad; Dr Falah al-Dulaimi, assistant dean of college at Mustansiriyah University; Dr Hissam Sharif, from the history department of the University of Baghdad; Professor Wajih Mahjoub of the College of Physical Education; Professor Sabah Mahmoud, ex-dean of the Education College, Mustansiriyah University; Professor Abdul Jabbar Mustafa, head of the politics department at Mosul University, Dr Layla Abdul Jabbar, dean of the Faculty of Law in Mosul (and her husband); Dr Ali Abdul Husain Jabok, of the College of Political Science at the University of Baghdad.

Corporation

November 30, 2007

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Corporation – n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility

Ambrose Bierce

12 states sue EPA for data on toxins – another mission accomplished

November 29, 2007

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By MICHAEL GORMLEY, Associated Press Writer 

ALBANY, N.Y. – Twelve states sued the Bush administration on Wednesday to force greater disclosure of data on toxic chemicals that companies store, use and release into the environment.

The state officials oppose new federal Environmental Protection Agency rules that allow thousands of companies to limit the information they disclose to the public about toxic chemicals, according to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the lead attorney general in the civil lawsuit.

The EPA this year rolled back a regulation on the Toxics Release Inventory law signed by President Ronald Reagan after the deadly Bhopal toxic chemical catastrophe in India in 1984, according to the states involved in the lawsuit. That law required companies to provide a lengthy, detailed report whenever they store or emit 500 pounds of specific toxins.

The new rule adopted this year requires that lengthy accounting only for companies storing or releasing 5,000 pounds of toxins or more. Companies storing or releasing 500 to 4,999 pounds of toxins would have to file an abbreviated form, said Katherine Kennedy, New York‘s special deputy attorney general for environmental protection.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New York City seeks to invalidate the EPA’s revised regulations.

“The EPA’s new regulations rob New Yorkers — and people across the country — of their right to know about toxic dangers in their own backyards,” said Cuomo. “Along with eleven other states throughout the nation, we will restore the public’s right to information about chemical hazards, despite the Bush administration’s best attempts to hide it.”

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the EPA’s action cripples a 20-year program that required companies to report the amount of lead, mercury and other toxins they released.

“Polluters can release 10 times more toxins like lead and mercury without telling anyone,” he said.

An EPA spokesman had no immediate comment.

The other states suing the EPA are Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.

A friend with weed is better

November 28, 2007

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Placebo – Pure Morning

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
A friend with weed is better
A friend with breasts and all the rest
A friend who’s dressed in leather

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
A friend who’ll tease is better
Our thoughts compressed
Which makes us blessed
And makes for stormy weather

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
My Japanese is better
And when she’s pressed she will undress
And then she’s boxing clever

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
A friend who bleeds is better
My friend confessed she passed the test
And we will never sever

Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
A friend who’ll tease is better
Our thoughts compressed
Which makes us blessed
And makes for stormy weather

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
A friend who bleeds is better
My friend confessed she passed the test
And we will never sever

Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Day’s dawning, skins crawling
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning
Pure morning

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
My Japanese is better
And when she’s pressed she will undress
And then she’s boxing clever

A friend in need’s a friend indeed
A friend with weed is better
A friend with breast and all the rest
A friend who’s dressed in leather

It’s the Oil

November 25, 2007

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by Jim Holt

Iraq is ‘unwinnable’, a ‘quagmire’, a ‘fiasco’: so goes the received opinion. But there is good reason to think that, from the Bush-Cheney perspective, it is none of these things. Indeed, the US may be ‘stuck’ precisely where Bush et al want it to be, which is why there is no ‘exit strategy’.

Iraq has 115 billion barrels of known oil reserves. That is more than five times the total in the United States. And, because of its long isolation, it is the least explored of the world’s oil-rich nations. A mere two thousand wells have been drilled across the entire country; in Texas alone there are a million. It has been estimated, by the Council on Foreign Relations, that Iraq may have a further 220 billion barrels of undiscovered oil; another study puts the figure at 300 billion. If these estimates are anywhere close to the mark, US forces are now sitting on one quarter of the world’s oil resources. The value of Iraqi oil, largely light crude with low production costs, would be of the order of $30 trillion at today’s prices. For purposes of comparison, the projected total cost of the US invasion/occupation is around $1 trillion.

Who will get Iraq’s oil? One of the Bush administration’s ‘benchmarks’ for the Iraqi government is the passage of a law to distribute oil revenues. The draft law that the US has written for the Iraqi congress would cede nearly all the oil to Western companies. The Iraq National Oil Company would retain control of 17 of Iraq’s 80 existing oilfields, leaving the rest – including all yet to be discovered oil – under foreign corporate control for 30 years. ‘The foreign companies would not have to invest their earnings in the Iraqi economy,’ the analyst Antonia Juhasz wrote in the New York Times in March, after the draft law was leaked. ‘They could even ride out Iraq’s current “instability” by signing contracts now, while the Iraqi government is at its weakest, and then wait at least two years before even setting foot in the country.’ As negotiations over the oil law stalled in September, the provincial government in Kurdistan simply signed a separate deal with the Dallas-based Hunt Oil Company, headed by a close political ally of President Bush.

How will the US maintain hegemony over Iraqi oil? By establishing permanent military bases in Iraq. Five self-sufficient ‘super-bases’ are in various stages of completion. All are well away from the urban areas where most casualties have occurred. There has been precious little reporting on these bases in the American press, whose dwindling corps of correspondents in Iraq cannot move around freely because of the dangerous conditions. (It takes a brave reporter to leave the Green Zone without a military escort.) In February last year, the Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks described one such facility, the Balad Air Base, forty miles north of Baghdad. A piece of (well-fortified) American suburbia in the middle of the Iraqi desert, Balad has fast-food joints, a miniature golf course, a football field, a cinema and distinct neighbourhoods – among them, ‘KBR-land’, named after the Halliburton subsidiary that has done most of the construction work at the base. Although few of the 20,000 American troops stationed there have ever had any contact with an Iraqi, the runway at the base is one of the world’s busiest. ‘We are behind only Heathrow right now,’ an air force commander told Ricks.

The Defense Department was initially coy about these bases. In 2003, Donald Rumsfeld said: ‘I have never, that I can recall, heard the subject of a permanent base in Iraq discussed in any meeting.’ But this summer the Bush administration began to talk openly about stationing American troops in Iraq for years, even decades, to come. Several visitors to the White House have told the New York Times that the president himself has become fond of referring to the ‘Korea model’. When the House of Representatives voted to bar funding for ‘permanent bases’ in Iraq, the new term of choice became ‘enduring bases’, as if three or four decades wasn’t effectively an eternity.

But will the US be able to maintain an indefinite military presence in Iraq? It will plausibly claim a rationale to stay there for as long as civil conflict simmers, or until every groupuscule that conveniently brands itself as ‘al-Qaida’ is exterminated. The civil war may gradually lose intensity as Shias, Sunnis and Kurds withdraw into separate enclaves, reducing the surface area for sectarian friction, and as warlords consolidate local authority. De facto partition will be the result. But this partition can never become de jure. (An independent Kurdistan in the north might upset Turkey, an independent Shia region in the east might become a satellite of Iran, and an independent Sunni region in the west might harbour al-Qaida.) Presiding over this Balkanised Iraq will be a weak federal government in Baghdad, propped up and overseen by the Pentagon-scale US embassy that has just been constructed – a green zone within the Green Zone. As for the number of US troops permanently stationed in Iraq, the defence secretary, Robert Gates, told Congress at the end of September that ‘in his head’ he saw the long-term force as consisting of five combat brigades, a quarter of the current number, which, with support personnel, would mean 35,000 troops at the very minimum, probably accompanied by an equal number of mercenary contractors. (He may have been erring on the side of modesty, since the five super-bases can accommodate between ten and twenty thousand troops each.) These forces will occasionally leave their bases to tamp down civil skirmishes, at a declining cost in casualties. As a senior Bush administration official told the New York Times in June, the long-term bases ‘are all places we could fly in and out of without putting Americans on every street corner’. But their main day-to-day function will be to protect the oil infrastructure.

This is the ‘mess’ that Bush-Cheney is going to hand on to the next administration. What if that administration is a Democratic one? Will it dismantle the bases and withdraw US forces entirely? That seems unlikely, considering the many beneficiaries of the continued occupation of Iraq and the exploitation of its oil resources. The three principal Democratic candidates – Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards – have already hedged their bets, refusing to promise that, if elected, they would remove American forces from Iraq before 2013, the end of their first term.

Among the winners: oil-services companies like Halliburton; the oil companies themselves (the profits will be unimaginable, and even Democrats can be bought); US voters, who will be guaranteed price stability at the gas pump (which sometimes seems to be all they care about); Europe and Japan, which will both benefit from Western control of such a large part of the world’s oil reserves, and whose leaders will therefore wink at the permanent occupation; and, oddly enough, Osama bin Laden, who will never again have to worry about US troops profaning the holy places of Mecca and Medina, since the stability of the House of Saud will no longer be paramount among American concerns. Among the losers is Russia, which will no longer be able to lord its own energy resources over Europe. Another big loser is Opec, and especially Saudi Arabia, whose power to keep oil prices high by enforcing production quotas will be seriously compromised.

Then there is the case of Iran, which is more complicated. In the short term, Iran has done quite well out of the Iraq war. Iraq’s ruling Shia coalition is now dominated by a faction friendly to Tehran, and the US has willy-nilly armed and trained the most pro-Iranian elements in the Iraqi military. As for Iran’s nuclear programme, neither air strikes nor negotiations seem likely to derail it at the moment. But the Iranian regime is precarious. Unpopular mullahs hold onto power by financing internal security services and buying off elites with oil money, which accounts for 70 per cent of government revenues. If the price of oil were suddenly to drop to, say, $40 a barrel (from a current price just north of $80), the repressive regime in Tehran would lose its steady income. And that is an outcome the US could easily achieve by opening the Iraqi oil spigot for as long as necessary (perhaps taking down Venezuela’s oil-cocky Hugo Chávez into the bargain).

And think of the United States vis-à-vis China. As a consequence of our trade deficit, around a trillion dollars’ worth of US denominated debt (including $400 billion in US Treasury bonds) is held by China. This gives Beijing enormous leverage over Washington: by offloading big chunks of US debt, China could bring the American economy to its knees. China’s own economy is, according to official figures, expanding at something like 10 per cent a year. Even if the actual figure is closer to 4 or 5 per cent, as some believe, China’s increasing heft poses a threat to US interests. (One fact: China is acquiring new submarines five times faster than the US.) And the main constraint on China’s growth is its access to energy – which, with the US in control of the biggest share of world oil, would largely be at Washington’s sufferance. Thus is the Chinese threat neutralised.

Many people are still perplexed by exactly what moved Bush-Cheney to invade and occupy Iraq. In the 27 September issue of the New York Review of Books, Thomas Powers, one of the most astute watchers of the intelligence world, admitted to a degree of bafflement. ‘What’s particularly odd,’ he wrote, ‘is that there seems to be no sophisticated, professional, insiders’ version of the thinking that drove events.’ Alan Greenspan, in his just published memoir, is clearer on the matter. ‘I am saddened,’ he writes, ‘that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.’

Was the strategy of invading Iraq to take control of its oil resources actually hammered out by Cheney’s 2001 energy task force? One can’t know for sure, since the deliberations of that task force, made up largely of oil and energy company executives, have been kept secret by the administration on the grounds of ‘executive privilege’. One can’t say for certain that oil supplied the prime motive. But the hypothesis is quite powerful when it comes to explaining what has actually happened in Iraq. The occupation may seem horribly botched on the face of it, but the Bush administration’s cavalier attitude towards ‘nation-building’ has all but ensured that Iraq will end up as an American protectorate for the next few decades – a necessary condition for the extraction of its oil wealth. If the US had managed to create a strong, democratic government in an Iraq effectively secured by its own army and police force, and had then departed, what would have stopped that government from taking control of its own oil, like every other regime in the Middle East? On the assumption that the Bush-Cheney strategy is oil-centred, the tactics – dissolving the army, de-Baathification, a final ‘surge’ that has hastened internal migration – could scarcely have been more effective. The costs – a few billion dollars a month plus a few dozen American fatalities (a figure which will probably diminish, and which is in any case comparable to the number of US motorcyclists killed because of repealed helmet laws) – are negligible compared to $30 trillion in oil wealth, assured American geopolitical supremacy and cheap gas for voters. In terms of realpolitik, the invasion of Iraq is not a fiasco; it is a resounding success.

Still, there is reason to be sceptical of the picture I have drawn: it implies that a secret and highly ambitious plan turned out just the way its devisers foresaw, and that almost never happens.

Black hoods in `70s sold out their own race

November 21, 2007

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Society rewarded these miscreants but don’t forget what they were

LES PAYNE NEWSDAY

A line in the “Godfather” movie gave birth to the current “American Gangster” flick, just as in real life La Cosa Nostra gave birth to the Black Mafia and “Don Carlo” leased the torch to Frank Lucas and Leroy “Nicky” Barnes.

“I don’t want it (heroin sold) near schools,” says Don Zaluchi in a meeting with other heads of Mafia families in the ’72 movie. “I don’t want it sold to children! That’s an infamia. In my city, we would keep the traffic in the dark people, the coloreds. They’re animals anyway, so let them lose their souls.”

Ripped from real life

This racist touch screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola lent the Mafia defiled the general high gloss the film applies to these brutish silk thugs and killers. The targeting of the Mafia’s deadly heroin at the black community, however, is lifted straight from the facts of life on city streets.In 1972, the feds wiretapped a high-echelon meeting of Cosa Nostra leaders on Staten Island, headed by Carlos “Don Carlo” Gambino, the then capo di tuti de capi. The Italian mob discussed getting back into the heroin street trade. They had withdrawn in the early ’60s when new conspiracy laws allowed prosecutors to convict top leaders who never actually handled the street dope, including Carmine Galante and Vito Genovese.

“When they ran it for 30 years,” one federal official told our investigative team back then, “it never got sold near a school or in the suburbs …These others, they sell to anyone who has the money. You ought to listen to them. (On wiretaps) they say, `What are they doing to our boys in Vietnam (by selling them heroin)? The stuff belongs in the ghetto.'”

Death and the Dons

Not coincidentally, the millions being made from heroin on the streets of Harlem, Bed-Stuy and increasingly throughout the five boroughs and the suburbs of New York were being raked in by expatriate Cuban mobsters and black gangster entrepreneurs such as Frank Lucas and Nicky Barnes. This duo appears to be the composite from which Denzel Washington drew his character for “American Gangster.” Lucas, the “country boy” up from North Carolina, got his drugs directly from Southeast Asia. The more formidable, Harlem-hardened Barnes got heroin from Italian mobsters who continued to deal despite the official Cosa Nostra ban.

As the Cosa Nostra had dealt its poison to the black community to the enrichment of the police, and with the indifference if not the blessings of the dominant society, so, too, did Messieurs Lucas and Barnes — but their trafficking had a blow-back effect on the white community. In 1969, with the black Dons riding high as drug lords of Harlem, heroin-related deaths in the city climbed to more than 800, mostly among blacks. The muggings, burglaries and robberies the junkies executed to get cash for their deadly daily habits were astronomical. By 1971, the yearly death rate exceeded 1,100, and the victims began to mount among white youth.

On Long Island, for example, of the 25 addicts who died from heroin-related causes in 1972, 20 were white, at an average age of 25. With heroin leaking out into the suburbs, Nixon declared war on hard drugs, and Gov. Nelson Rockefeller enacted the toughest drug laws in the nation. Street addicts/dealers, mainly blacks, began — and continue — to fill the prisons, again, ironically, to the indifference, if not the blessing, of the dominant society.

With the body count and the lockdowns devastating Harlem and Bed-Stuy, Lucas and Barnes and the Italian mob rolled in the cash. When Barnes appeared on the cover of The New York Times Sunday magazine under the headline, “Mr. Untouchable,” an irate President Jimmy Carter famously loosed his attorney general to bring him to book. Sentenced to life without parole in ’78 on drug-related charges, Barnes wormed his way into the witness-protection program in ’98 by snitching on his drug-dealing associates.

Refuge in government

Lucas served even less time than Barnes. Both former heroin kingpins now hide in the bosom of the federal government.

These two miscreants who helped debase two generations of blacks are being rewarded by society, apparently for doing the state good service. After the movies, the documentaries and the books, we might expect to see their faces on a U.S. postage stamp.


Les Payne is a columnist for Newsday.

Cannabis compound ‘halts cancer’ – BBC

November 20, 2007

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A compound found in cannabis may stop breast cancer spreading throughout the body, US scientists believe. The California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute team are hopeful that cannabidiol or CBD could be a non-toxic alternative to chemotherapy.

Unlike cannabis, CBD does not have any psychoactive properties so its use would not violate laws, Molecular Cancer Therapeutics reports.

The authors stressed that they were not suggesting patients smoke marijuana.

They added that it would be highly unlikely that effective concentrations of CBD could be reached by smoking cannabis.

  This compound offers the hope of a non-toxic therapy that could achieve the same results without any of the painful side effects
Lead researcher Dr Sean McAllister

CBD works by blocking the activity of a gene called Id-1 which is believed to be responsible for the aggressive spread of cancer cells away from the original tumour site – a process called metastasis.

Past work has shown CBD can block aggressive human brain cancers.

The latest work found CBD appeared to have a similar effect on breast cancer cells in the lab.

Future hope

Lead researcher Dr Sean McAllister said: “Right now we have a limited range of options in treating aggressive forms of cancer.

“Those treatments, such as chemotherapy, can be effective but they can also be extremely toxic and difficult for patients.

“This compound offers the hope of a non-toxic therapy that could achieve the same results without any of the painful side effects.”

Dr Joanna Owens of Cancer Research UK said: “This research is at a very early stage.

“The findings will need to be followed up with clinical trials in humans to see if the CBD is safe, and whether the beneficial effects can be replicated.

“Several cancer drugs based on plant chemicals are already used widely, such as vincristine – which is derived from a type of flower called Madagascar Periwinkle and is used to treat breast and lung cancer. It will be interesting to see whether CBD will join them.”

Maria Leadbeater of Breast Cancer Care said: “Many people experience side-effects while having chemotherapy, such as nausea and an increased risk of infection, which can take both a physical and emotional toll.

“Any drug that has fewer side-effects will, of course, be of great interest.”

But she added: “It is clear that much more research needs to be carried out.”

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/health/7098340.stm

Published: 2007/11/19 06:11:45 GMT

© BBC MMVII

The Money Party

November 17, 2007

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The Money Party
The Essence of our Political Troubles
Michael Collins
“Scoop” Independent News
Washington, D.C.The Money Party is a small group of enterprises and individuals who have most of the money in this country. They use that money to make more money. Controlling who gets elected to public office is the key to more money for them and less for us. As 2008 approaches, The Money Party is working hard to maintain its perfect record.

It is not about Republicans versus Democrats. Right now, the Republicans do a better job taking money than the Democrats. But The Money Party is an equal opportunity employer. They have no permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests. Democrats are as welcome as Republicans to this party. It’s all good when you’re on the take and the take is legal.

This is not a conspiracy theory. There are no secret societies or sinister operators. This party is up front and in your face. Just follow the money. One percent of Americans hold 33% of the nation’s wealth. The top 10% hold 72% of the total wealth. The bottom 40% of Americans control only 0.3% (three tenths of one percent). And that was before “pay day loans.”

The story is as old as civilization but the stakes have never been higher than they are right now.

In every campaign for major office, the party passes out money and buys candidates from both parties. Thanks to the candidates who get elected, this pay to play system remains perfectly legal. Those elected get luxury trips, sweet jobs for family members, and more campaign contributions for the next round of elections. What they do is perfectly legal even though it looks like bribery.

In return for contributions, the election winners come through by fixing the laws so that The Money Party cleans up. Lower taxes, highly favorable business regulations, laws that shield their businesses from real competition all start with the nonstop flow of Money Party funds. Cost is no object, because in the end it’s all paid for with our tax dollars.

The Money Party gets no-bid contracts as well as the ability to lay off their employees and dump their pension plans just about any time they want. It doesn’t get much better than that. It’s welfare for big money and survival of the fittest for the rest of us.

We are nothing to them.

When the White House and Congress ignore the health care crisis year after year, why be surprised? They’re not in office to serve you. The drug companies and hospitals had their bid in first.

When our public servants fail to get us out of Iraq, don’t take it personally. That will happen when The Money Party says so.

When citizens suffer and starve for days after a hurricane, we’re told they should have been better prepared. When levees and bridges collapse, it’s an act of God. But when the fat no-bid contracts show up, The Money Party takes it all.

Unreliable election systems, citizens excluded from the vote on the basis of race and class, and questionable results don’t matter as long as the right candidates get in. We pretend to vote, they pretend to get elected, but there’s no doubt who is in charge – The Money Party.

It’s nothing personal. The party is just doing its job. Why be surprised or disappointed? It’s been happening for centuries. The more some have, the more they want, the harder they fight to keep it. Spread some around so they can get even more. It’s a rigged game from top to bottom.

We let this happen. We can change it. The first step is to name it, and we just did.

The Irish fought for 800 years to win their independence from the world’s most powerful empire. Generations came and went before the goal even seemed possible. They never gave up.

Now it’s our turn.

END

Note: This is the first in series of articles on The Money Party. Other topics include why we end up with such lousy leaders, why it’s so hard to get rid of them, and how the party manipulates the public debate with misleading terms and crackpot ideas that seem legitimate. Special thanks to John Arbuthnot and Jillian Hayroot for their input.

Permission granted to reproduce in whole or part with a link to the original article in “Scoop” Independent News and attribution of authorship to Michael Collins.